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A  History  of  Popular  Recreation 









may  be  compared  to  a  river— its  course  adapting  itself  to 
the  nature  of  the  country  through  which  it  flows,  the  main 
stream  continually  augmented  by  tributaries,  and  the  river-bed 
itself  ever  growing  both  broader  and  deeper.  In  the  early  period 
of  settlement  it  was  little  more  than  a  thin  trickle,  forcing  its 
way  through  a  forbidding  terrain,  but  with  the  eighteenth  century 
it  slowly  gathered  volume  and  flowed  on  quietly  and  steadily. 
The  first  half  of  the  nineteenth  century  saw  its  course  deflected 
into  more  narrow  channels,  and  for  a  time  the  flow  appeared  to 
be  almost  checked,  but  after  the  Civil  War  scores  of  new  tribu- 
taries swelled  it  to  far  greater  size.  The  twentieth  century  trans- 
formed it  into  a  riotous  torrent,  breaking  through  all  barriers  as 
it  carved  out  fresh  channels.  Sometimes  it  appeared  to  sweep 
almost  everything  else  aside,  spreading  in  full  flood  over  a  vast 

This  book  is  an  attempt  to  trace  the  main  course  of  this  stream. 
Recreation  is  considered  in  its  popular  sense— the  leisure-time 
activities  that  the  American  people  have  pursued  over  three 
centuries  for  their  own  pleasure.  At  all  periods  of  history  men 
and  women  have  probably  spent  the  greater  part  of  their  leisure 
in  informal  talk,  in  visiting  and  entertaining  their  friends,  in 
casual  walks  and  strolls,  and  sometimes  in  reading  for  their  own 
amusement.  But  these  more  simple  activities  are  hidden  in  the 
obscurity  that  shrouds  private  lives.  Organised,  public  recrea- 
tion has  consciously  been  adopted  as  the  basis  for  this  record. 

It  has  been  found  stupendously  difficult  to  delimit  its  bound- 
aries. There  have  always  been  leisure-time  pursuits  in  which 
cultural  and  recreational  motives  are  inextricably  mixed,  and  in 


viii  PREFACE 

more  recent  years  increasing  emphasis  has  been  placed  on  crea- 
tive activities.  In  the  main,  the  cultural  and  the  creative  have 
been  ignored  in  this  account  of  the  people  at  play.  Music  and 
the  dance  are  treated  as  entertainment,  not  art.  Where  religion, 
or  rather  the  church,  has  impinged  on  the  recreational  scene, 
there  is  again  no  attempt  to  go  beyond  the  surface  implications 
of  the  popular  enjoyment  of  the  Sunday  meeting  or  midweek 
Great  and  Thursday  of  colonial  days,  the  frontier  revival,  the 
small-town  church  social  of  the  1890's,  or  the  activities  clustering 
about  the  institutionalized  church  of  metropolis. 

Even  with  these  limitations  recreation  includes  a  wide  cate- 
gory of  amusements  ranging  from  horseshoe-pitching  to  sym- 
phony concerts,  from  the  circus  to  fox-hunting,  from  prize-fights 
to  contract  bridge,  from  lodge  night  to  international  polo. 
Throughout  the  book  the  emphasis  has  invariably  been  placed 
on  those  diversions  or  sports  which  have  reached  the  greatest 
number  of  people.  A  century  ago  a  shrewd  foreign  observer 
declared  that  democracy  was  too  new  a  comer  upon  the  earth 
to  have  been  able  as  yet  to  organize  its  pleasures.  America  would 
be  compelled  in  this  field  of  activity,  as  in  politics,  to  create 
everything  fresh.  How  this  challenge  has  been  met  is  the  basic 
question  that  has  determined  my  lines  of  inquiry.  Yachting  has 
been  largely  ignored  in  favor  of  bicycling  and  motoring,  the 
opera  neglected  to  stress  the  importance  of  minstrel  shows  and 
vaudeville,  and  though  the  popular  theatre  of  the  mid-nineteenth 
century  is  described,  the  rise  of  the  movies  has  forced  the  legiti- 
mate stage  of  the  twentieth  century  into  the  background. 

In  view  of  the  greatly  increased  leisure  for  the  masses  of 
people  in  the  present  day  and  the  very  real  concern  as  to  how 
it  is  being  used,  it  is  hoped  that  an  account  of  changing  trends 
in  recreation  during  the  past  three  centuries  may  prove  of  imme- 
diate interest.  Two  important  factors,  I  think,  stand  out  from  the 
record.  The  first  is  the  continuing  influence  of  an  inherent  puri- 
tanism,  both  rising  from  and  enforcing  a  dogma  of  work  born 
of  economic  circumstance,  which  may  be  traced  from  the  seven- 


teenth  century  to  tihe  twentieth.  Until  recent  times  it  has  frowned 
severely  upon  what  the  early  settlers  called  any  "mispense  of 
time.'*  If  to-day  this  attitude  has  somewhat  changed,  the  Amer- 
ican tradition  still  insists  that  amusements  should  at  least  make 
some  pretense  of  serving  socially  useful  ends.  The  businessman 
plays  golf  to  keep  fit  for  business;  the  woman's  club  emphasizes 
its  educational  program;  and  reformers  would  have  all  popular 
entertainment  directed  toward  the  establishment  of  higher 
cultural  standards. 

The  second  factor  is  the  paramount  influence  on  recreation  of 
the  gradual  transformation  of  our  economy  from  the  simplicity 
of  the  agricultural  era  to  the  complexity  of  the  machine  age.  No 
field  of  human  activity  has  been  more  deeply  affected  by  this 
change  and  the  concomitant  growth  of  cities.  The  machine  has 
greatly  increased  the  leisure  of  the  laboring  masses,  and  it  has 
at  the  same  time  made  life  less  leisurely.  The  traditional  pat- 
terns of  everyday  living  have  been  completely  altered  with  an 
ever-growing  need  for  play  that  can  effectively  compensate  for 
the  intensity  under  which  we  must  work.  If  many  of  the  forms 
of  recreation  that  have  evolved  under  these  circumstances  appear 
far  from  ideal,  the  question  is  nevertheless  posed  as  to  what  the 
urban  masses,  granted  the  conditions  of  modern  life,  would  be 
doing  if  they  did  not  have  their  commercial  amusements  and 
spectator  sports. 

Entirely  apart  from  the  possible  bearing  on  present-day  recrea- 
tion of  the  developments  of  the  past,  an  account  of  three  cen- 
turies of  play  also  seems  to  throw  as  revealing  a  light  upon  how 
the  American  people  have  created  the  modern  society  in  which 
we  live  as  many  records  of  more  serious  activities.  Lord  Lytton 
has  somewhere  stated  that  the  civilization  of  a  people  is  infallibly 
indicated  by  the  intellectual  character  of  its  amusements.  It  is 
more  and  more  widely  recognized  to-day  that  what  a  nation 
does  with  its  leisure  is  oftentimes  just  as  significant  as  how  it 
either  maintains  itself  economically  or  governs  itself.  This  book 
is  presented  with  the  idea  that  on  these  grounds  alone  there  is 


justification  for  surveying  a  phase  of  human  activity  which  the 
historian  often  ignores. 

The  field  is  so  broad  that,  with  the  best  will  in  the  world,  it  has 
proved  impossible  to  treat  many  topics  comprehensively.  I  have 
not  tried  to  give  a  complete  record  of  any  single  sport  or  amuse- 
ment. The  origins  of  diversions  are  generally  traced  in  some 
detail,  but  once  popularly  accepted  (the  tributary  joining  the 
main  stream),  further  developments  have  been  noted  only  as 
incidental  to  the  general  expansion  of  recreation.  Moreover,  to 
write  authoritatively  of  New  England  husking-bees  and  the  con- 
certs and  balls  of  colonial  Charleston;  of  sailing  regattas  in  the 
1830's  and  the  trotting  races  of  county  fairs  in  mid-century;  of 
archery  and  the  roller-skating  craze;  of  surprise  parties  and  the 
popular  melodrama  of  the  1890's;  of  automobile  motoring,  the 
movies,  and  radio;  of  Softball  and  siding;  of  jazz,  crossword 
puzzles,  and  major-league  baseball,  would  demand  a  familiarity 
with  the  social  scene  through  three  hundred  years  of  American 
history  which  I  would  be  the  first  to  disclaim. 

It  has  taken  considerable  courage  even  to  attempt  to  plot  a 
course.  The  mass  of  available  evidence  made  a  sampling  process 
the  only  possible  procedure.  Where  other  writers  have  traced 
the  history  of  some  one  form  of  amusement  (for  there  is  no  com- 
parable earlier  book  covering  the  whole  subject),  I  have  most 
gratefully  availed  myself  of  the  fruits  of  their  labor.  The  chapter 
notes  and  bibliography  at  the  end  of  the  volume  will  give  some 
measure  of  my  indebtedness.  But  so  far  as  time  and  space  have 
allowed,  I  have  used  the  contemporary  evidence  of  how  the 
American  people  have  amused  themselves  in  their  leisure  time— 
the  records  contained  in  diaries,  autobiographies,  travel  accounts, 
magazines,  newspapers,  playbills  and  posters,  sports  manuals 
and  advertisements.  I  have  selected  whatever  appeared  signifi- 
cant, interesting,  and  sometimes  amusing  in  order  to  present  the 
kaleidoscopic  scene  as  much  as  possible  through  the  eyes  of  those 
who  actually  observed  it.  There  can  be  no  scientific  exactitude 
about  such  a  record.  It  is  necessarily  colored  throughout,  though 


I  have  tried  to  restrain  myself,  by  personal  interests  and  enthu- 
siasms—and also  by  personal  blind-spots. 

To  acknowledge  the  aid  and  assistance  I  have  received  from 
various  sources  is  but  a  poor  return  for  these  favors.  The  book 
would  probably  have  never  been  written  except  for  a  fellowship 
awarded  by  the  John  Simon  Guggenheim  Memorial  Foundation. 
I  should  also  like  to  express  my  appreciation  of  the  cooperation 
of  Francis  G.  Wickware  in  assembling  the  illustrations,  and  of 
Janet  Aaron  in  compiling  the  index.  The  manuscript  has  been 
patiently  read  and  criticized  by  several  co-workers  or  friends, 
among  whom  I  am  particularly  indebted  to  John  A.  Krout;  while 
the  aid,  encouragement,  and  practical  assistance  of  Edith  Dulles 
Snare  and  Marion  Dulles  are  greatly  responsible  for  whatever 
virtues  the  book  may  claim. 

























XIX.    ON  THE  AIR 320 

XX.   THE  GREAT  AMERICAN  BAND-WAGON      ....  332 




NOTES 391 

INDEX 425 


The  End  of  the  Fox  Hunt -frontispiece 


Title-Page  of  King  James  Ts  "Book  of  Sports'*  ....   on  11 

Bear-Baiting 24 

Skittles 24 

"The  Hill  Tops,"  a  New  Hunting  Song 25 

How  to  Mount  a  Horse on  32 

The  Square  Dance on  38 

Exotic  Animals  on  Show  in  New  England on  41 

Playbill  of  the  Hallam  Company  of  Comedians    ....   on  55 

Shooting  for  the  Beef 72 

Joys  of  the  Camp-Meeting 73 

"Light  May  the  Boat  Row" 86 

Dr.  Rich's  Institute  for  Physical  Education 87 

A  Picnic  on  the  Wissahickon 87 

Female  Calisthenics  in  the  Pantalette  Era on  94 

A  Family  Party  Playing  at  Fox  and  Geese 96 

The  Dance  after  the  Husking 96 

Skating  in  Central  Park,  New  York     .........  97 

A  Society  Audience  at  the  Park  Theatre,  New  York  ....  106 

Scenes  from  "Uncle  Tom's  Cabin" 107 

Fanny  Elssler  in  La  Tarentule 116 

Wonders  of  Barnum's  Museum 117 

'  First  Appearance  of  Jenny  Lind  in  America 126 

Jim  Crow 126 

Christy's  Minstrels 127 

Barnum  Enters  the  Circus  Field 132 

Circus  Day  in  Chicago 133 

Peytona  and  Fashion's  Great  Match 140 

Lady  Suffolk  and  O'Blennis 141 

Boat-Race  on  the  Charles  River,  Boston 144 




A  Great  Foot-Race  at  Hoboken 144 

The  Great  Fight  for  the  Championship 145 

A  Yachting  Club  on  Lake  Erie 150 

The  Bathe  at  Newport 151 

Sleighing  in  New  York 156 

A  Home  on  the  Mississippi 157 

The  Turkey  Shoot 157 

The  Fashionable  Singing  Class 164 

The  Dance 164 

Enter  the  Trick  Horseman 165 

The  Hurdy-Gurdy  House  at  Virginia  City,  Montana  ....  174 

Cow-Town  Vaudeville 174 

Bucking  the  Tiger 175 

Cowboys  in  Town  for  Christmas 175 

A  Great  Game  for  the  Baseball  Championship 186 

The  Game  of  Croquet 187 

A  Spring  Meeting  of  the  New  York  Archery  Club  ....  _187_ 

The  First  National  Turn's  Tournament  at  New  Brighton     .      .  196 

Washington  Meet  of  the  League  of  American  Wheelmen    .     .  196 

Yale  Meets  Princeton  in  Football 197 

A  Six-Day  Walk  for  the  Pedestrian  Championship  ...  on  200 

Camping  Out 202 

The  Great  International  Caledonian  Games 203 

Sunday  "Social  Freedom"  in  the  Bowery 212 

A  Chicago  Pool-Room  on  Sunday 213 

Winter  Amateur  Athletic  Meet  at  the  Boston  Athletic  Club  .     .  222 

The  Bathing  Hour  on  the  Beach  at  Atlantic  City  ....  223 

A  Double  Play  to  Open  the  League  Season 223 

Trotting  Cracks  of  Philadelphia  Returning  from  the  Races    .      .  232 

Fashionable  Turnouts  in  Central  Park 232 

Baltimore  Society  Dances  for  Charity 233 

When  Wallaces  Theatre  Was  New 238 

Defense  of  the  America's  Cup 239 

New  York's  First  Coach 239 

Polo  at  Jerome  Park 244 

The  Social  Side  of  Intercollegiate  Baseball 245 

Knights  Templar  in  Conclave  at  Chicago 256 



A  Chautauqua  Tent 257 

The  Lighter  Side  of  Chautauqua 257 

Program  of  a  Typical  Chautauqua  Week on  259 

Puck's  Suggestion  to  His  Religious  Friends on  268 

A  New  England  Straw  Ride 274 

A  Grange  Meeting  in  an  Illinois  School-House 274 

The  Day  We  Celebrate 275 

The  Country  Fair 282 

Jumbo 283 

In  the  Days  of  the  Kinetoscope 292 

The  Last  Word  in  Picture  Theatres 292 

Incunabula  of  the  Movies 293 

New  Toys  for  the  Wealthy - .      .  310 

Cars  and  Costumes  of  Pre-War  Days 310 

Vacationing  on  Wheels 311 

The  First  Broadcasting  Station 322 

Broadcasting  to  the  Nation 322 

Entertainment  for  Sunday  Evening 323 

Golf  on  a  Vacant  Lot 340 

Devotees   of  Swing 341 

Pioneer  Sportswomen 348 

When  East  Meets  West  in  Football 349 

Factory  Softball 360 

College  Basketball 360 

Ski  Tracks  in  the  Rockies 361 

On  the  Beach  at  Coney  Island 361 




A  America  had  the  same  instinctive  drive  for  play  that  is  the 
common  heritage  o£  all  mankind.  It  suffered  no  sea  change  in  the 
long  and  stormy  crossing  of  the  Atlantic.  Landing  at  Jamestown, 
Sir  Thomas  Dale  found  the  almost  starving  colonists  playing 
happily  at  bowls  in  161L1  *  The  first  Thanksgiving  at  Plymouth 
was  something  more  than  an  occasion  for  prayer.  Edward 
Winslow  wrote  that  among  other  recreations  the  Pilgrims  exer- 
cised their  arms  and  for  three  days  entertained  and  feasted  the 

Against  the  generally  somber  picture  of  early  New  England 
life  may  also  be  set  the  lively  account  of  those  gay  and  wanton 
festivities  at  Merry  Mount.  To  the  consternation  of  "the  precise 
separatists,  that  lived  at  new  Plymouth,"  the  scapegrace  followers 
of  Thomas  Morton  set  up  a  May-pole,  brought  out  wine  and 
strong  waters,  and  invited  the  Indians  to  join  them: 

Drinke  and  be  merry,  merry,  merry  boyes, 
Let  all  your  delight  be  in  the  Hymens  joyes, 
Joy  to  Hymen  now  the  day  is  come, 
About  the  merry  Maypole  take  a  Roome. 
Make  greene  garlons,  bring  bottles  out 
And  fill  sweet  Nectar  freely  about. 
Uncover  thy  head  and  fear  no  harme, 
For  hers  good  liquor  to  keepe  it  warme.3 

*  All  numerical  symbols  throughout  the  text  refer  to  source  references  to 
be  found  in  the  notes  at  the  end  of  the  book.  They  may  be  ignored  by  the 
reader  not  interested  in  such  material. 



They  spent  several  days,  in  William  Bradford's  disapproving 
phrase,  "dancing  and  frisking  togither,  (like  so  many  fairies  or 
furies  rather,)  and  worse  practises/'4 

It  was  from  these  beginnings  that  American  recreation  grew 
to  the  varied  and  full  activities  we  know  to-day.  They  natu- 
rally open  any  record  that  would  attempt  to  trace  its  growth  and 
expansion  under  the  changing  conditions  of  American  life.  But 
it  would  be  placing  a  greatly  exaggerated  emphasis  on  these 
simple  sports  and  festivities  to  imagine  that  they  were  everyday 
occurrences.  The  first  settlers  actually  had  very  little  time  or 
opportunity  to  play.  Harsh  circumstance  fastened  upon  them  the 
necessity  for  continual  work.  In  the  strange  and  unfamiliar 
wilderness  that  was  America,  "all  things  stared  upon  them  with 
a  weather-beaten  face/'  The  forest  crowded  against  their  little 
settlements  along  tidewater,  and  they  felt  continually  menaced 
by  its  lurking  dangers.  None  knew  when  the  eerie  war-whoop 
of  the  Indians  might  break  the  oppressive  silence.  Starvation 
again  and  again  thinned  their  ranks,  and  disease  was  a  grim 
specter  hovering  over  each  household.  Merely  to  keep  alive  in 
a  land  which  to  their  inexperience  was  cruel  and  inhospitable 
demanded  all  their  energy. 

The  ruling  powers,  whether  north  or  south,  Puritan  or  Anglican, 
consequently  found  it  at  once  necessary  to  adopt  the  strictest 
regulations  "in  detestation  of  idleness,"  to  the  end  of  enforcing 
work  and  prohibiting  all  amusements.  Sir  Thomas  Dale  sternly 
forbade  further  bowling  at  Jamestown  and  decreed  that  any 
tradesman  unfaithful  and  negligent  in  daily  attendance  upon  his 
occupation  should  be  "condemned  to  the  Galley  for  three  years/' 5 
Governor  Endicott  of  the  Massachusetts  Bay  Colony  cut  down 
the  May-pole  at  Merry  Mount,  gravely  warning  the  revelers  for 
the  future  "to  looke  ther  should  be  better  walking,"  and  prepared 
rigorously  to  enforce  the  General  Court's  law  that  "no  person, 
householder  or  oilier,  shall  spend  his  time  idly  or  unprofitably, 
under  paine  of  such  punishment  as  the  Courte  shall  thinke  meet 
to  inflict.*6 


It  was  the  paramount  need  of  a  primitive,  pioneer  society  for 
the  whole-hearted  cooperation  of  the  entire  community  that  fas- 
tened upon  the  first  Americans  a  tradition  of  work  which  still 
weighs  heavily  upon  their  descendants.  The  common  welfare  in 
those  difficult  and  perilous  days  could  not  permit  any  "mispense 
of  time."  Those  who  would  not  work  of  their  own  volition  had 
to  be  driven  to  it  under  the  lash  of  compulsion.  Religion  provided 
the  strongest  moral  sanction  for  every  law  suppressing  amuse- 
ments. It  was  one  of  the  vital  forces  making  for  a  life  in  which 
recreation  for  long  played  hardly  any  part  But  in  all  the  colonies 
there  was  this  basic  fact:  if  the  settlers  did  not  direct  all  their 
energy  to  their  work,  they  could  not  hope  to  survive. 

VIRGINIA  originally  enacted  laws  fully  as  restrictive  as  those  of 
New  England.7  The  Assembly  in  1619  decreed  that  any  person 
found  idle  should  be  bound  over  to  compulsory  work;  it  pro- 
hibited gaming  at  dice  or  cards,  strictly  regulated  drinking,  pro- 
vided penalties  for  excess  in  apparel,  and  rigidly  enforced 
Sabbath  observance.8  There  was,  for  example,  to  be  no  admission  of 
actors  Tbecause  we  resolve  to  suffer  no  Idle  persons  in  Virginia/'  9 
Court  records  show  that  offenses  against  these  laws  were  dealt 
with  severely.10  It  was  only  as  conditions  of  life  became  some- 
what easier  that  enforcement  grew  lax.  Once  the  colony  was 
firmly  established  and  the  need  for  incessant  work  began  to 
lessen,  Virginians  were  more  generally  permitted  to  make  the 
most  of  whatever  opportunities  for  recreation  their  expanding  life 

In  New  England,  where  the  stern  rule  of  Calvinism  condemned 
idleness  and  amusements  for  their  own  sake,  the  tradition  that 
life  should  be  wholly  devoted  to  work  ("that  noe  idle  drone  bee 
permitted  to  live  amongst  us"  11  )  held  its  ground  more  firmly. 
The  magistrates  attempted  to  suppress  almost  every  form  of 
recreation  long  after  the  practical  justification  for  such  an  unre- 
lenting attitude  had  disappeared.  The  intolerance  of  Puritanism 


was  superimposed  upon  economic  necessity  to  confine  life  in 
New  England  within  the  narrowest  possible  grooves.  Massa- 
chusetts and  Connecticut  banned  dice,  cards,  quoits,  bowls, 
ninepins,  "or  any  other  unlawful  game  in  house,  yard,  garden 
or  backside,"  singling  out  for  special  attention  "the  Game  called 
Shuffle  Board,  in  howses  of  Common  Interteinment,  whereby 
much  precious  time  is  spent  unfruitfully." 12  They  listed  "com- 
mon Coasters,  unprofitable  fowlers,  and  Tobacko  takers"  as  idlers 
subject  to  immediate  punishment.  No  smoker  in  Connecticut 
could  "take  any  tobacco  publiquely  in  the  street,  nor  shall  any 
take  yt  in  the  fyelds  or  woods."  His  indulgence  in  a  habit  gen- 
erally condemned  as  time-wasting  was  limited  to  the  "ordinary 
tyme  of  repast  commonly  called  dynner." 1S 

Throughout  New  England,  local  ordinances  further  ordered 
the  constables  to  "search  after  all  manner  of  gameing,  singing 
and  dancing"  and  to  report  "disordered  meetings"  even  when 
they  were  held  in  private  homes.14  John  Cotton  had  condoned 
dancing  under  certain  circumstances,  reserving  his  disapproval 
with  possible  justification  for  'lascivious  dancing  to  wanton  dit- 
ties, and  in  amorous  gestures  and  wanton  dalliances,"  but  his 
successors  admitted  no  such  subtle  distinctions.  The  Devil  was 
responsible  for  all  dancing,  and  especially  "Gynecandrical  Danc- 
ing or  that  which  is  commonly  called  Mixt  or  Promiscuous 
Dancing  of  Men  and  Women." 15  When  the  Massachusetts  Gen- 
eral Court  learned  that  the  custom  of  dancing  at  weddings  was 
growing  up,  it  flatly  decreed  that  there  should  be  no  more  of  it, 
then  or  at  any  other  time.16 

The  theatre  was  of  course  absolutely  prohibited.  Connecticut 
was  prepared  to  adjudge  as  common  rogues  and  serve  fifteen 
stripes  on  the  bare  back  to  any  one  who  should  attempt  to  "set 
up  and  practice  common  plays,  interludes,  or  other  crafty 
science."  Boston  on  one  occasion  refused  permission  for  an  ex- 
hibition of  tight-rope  walking  'lest  the  said  divertisement  may 
tend  to  promote  idleness  in  the  town  and  great  mispense  of 


These  laws  represented  a  determination  to  promote  industry 
and  frugality;  they  also  reflected  the  Puritan  concept  of  the 
evil  inherent  in  any  frivolous  waste  of  time.  In  one  instance 
there  was  a  curious  conflict  between  these  two  motives.  Toward 
the  close  of  the  period  of  the  Great  Migration,  the  popularity 
of  the  midweek  church  meeting,  known  as  the  Great  and  Thurs- 
day, began  keeping  many  of  the  country  people  from  their 
work.  "There  were  so  many  lectures  now  in  the  country,"  John 
Winthrop  wrote  in  1639,  "and  many  poor  persons  would  usually 
resort  to  two  or  three  in  the  week,  to  the  great  neglect  of  their 
affairs,  and  the  damage  of  the  public." is  Here  was  one  of  the 
few  breaks  in  the  harsh  routine  of  daily  life  that  the  early  settlers 
experienced,  a  social  function  when  there  were  no  others.  And 
while  the  lecture  itself  might  be  wearisome  and  dreary,  at  least 
for  those  to  whom  Calvinistic  theology  was  not  always  com- 
pletely absorbing,  it  offered  a  chance  for  neighborly  gossip  after 
the  service  and  for  the  pleasure  of  seeing  offenders  against  the 
Puritan  code  properly  punished—placed  in  the  stocks  or  whipped 
at  the  cart's  tail.  Consequently  the  colony's  theocratic  rulers 
found  themselves  in  a  difficult  quandary.  Attendance  at  these 
meetings  could  not  be  prohibited:  it  hardly  fell  under  the  head 
of  idle  or  frivolous  amusement.  None  the  less  it  represented, 
from  a  utilitarian  viewpoint,  a  serious  "mispense"  of  time. 

It  was  first  ruled,  to  prevent  waste  of  a  whole  day,  that  lec- 
tures should  not  begin  before  one  o'clock.  Then  the  ministers 
were  urged  to  hold  fewer  midweek  meetings.  And  finally  the 
order  went  out  that  the  church  assemblies  should  ordinarily 
break  up  in  time  to  enable  people  who  lived  a  mile  or  two  off 
to  get  home  before  dusk.  Nothing  could  be  permitted  that  in 
any  way  would  impair  the  spirit  expressed  in  William  Wood's 
dictum  that  aside  from  everything  else  "all  New  England  must 
be  workers  in  some  kind." 19 

No  such  reason  could  be  advanced  to  justify  the  vehement 
efforts  of  magistrates  and  elders  to  compel  that  strict  observance 
of  the  Sabbath  which  they  had  made  one  of  the  cardinal  articles 


of  their  stern  faith.  Religion  stood  its  ground  without  economic 
support.  The  Lord's  Day  was  to  be  wholly  devoted  to  pious 
reflection  upon  the  bounties  of  an  all-wise  Providence.  Puritan- 
ism did  not  admit  the  idea  that  this  one  day  free  of  work  might 
possibly  be  enjoyed  for  itself. 

Virginia  had  forbidden  Sunday  amusements  in  the  early  years 
of  settlement  The  laws  of  that  colony,  as  applied  by  Governor 
Argall  in  1618,  made  the  penalty  for  failure  to  attend  church 
service  imprisonment  in  the  guard-house  ('lying  neck  and  heels 
on  the  Corps  of  Card  ye  night  following  and  be  a  slave  ye  week 
following")  and  strictly  banned  any  Sabbath-day  dancing,  fiddling, 
card-playing,  hunting,  or  fishing.20  But  while  these  laws  soon  fell 
into  abeyance,  New  England's  holy  zeal  in  trying  to  turn  the  day 
into  one  of  vacuous  melancholy  was  not  abated. 

The  strict  prohibition  of  any  Sunday  labor,  travel,  or  recrea- 
tion was  supplemented  by  specific  bans  on  "all  unnecessary  and 
unseasonable  walking  in  the  streets  and  fields."  ^  Application  of 
this  law  was  graciously  limited  to  children  over  seven,  but  the 
Massachusetts  General  Court  gave  warning  that  this  by  no  means 
implied  that  "we  approve  of  younger  children  in  evil."22  In 
Connecticut  the  town  of  New  London  found  occasion  to  hale 
John  Lewis  and  Sarah  Chapman  into  court  "for  sitting  together 
on  the  Lord's  Day,  under  an  apple  tree  in  Goodman  Chapman's 
Orchard."  2S  And  there  is  the  well  authenticated  case,  cited  by 
Charles  Francis  Adams,  of  the  New  England  minister  who  re- 
fused to  baptize  children  bom  on  the  Sabbath  in  the  belief  that 
they  had  been  conceived  on  the  Lord's  Day,  only  to  be  con- 
founded when  his  wife  gave  birth  to  Sabbath-day  twins.2* 

WHY  HAD  Puritanism  developed  such  an  intense  disapproval  of 
sports  and  games,  popular  amusements?  Where  had  its  stern 
insistence  upon  the  sanctity  of  the  Sabbath  come  from?  In  part 
these  ideas  stemmed  from  the  religious  dissenters  of  fourteenth- 
century  England,  The  revolt  of  Wycliffe  and  the  Lollards  against 


the  worldliness  of  the  Anglican  Catholic  Church  had  been  di- 
rected against  all  those  diversions  which  the  Church  of  that  day 
freely  countenanced.  They  symbolized  in  the  eyes  of  these  re- 
formers the  triumph  of  evil  impulses  over  truly  spiritual  values; 
they  could  have  no  place  in  consecrated  lives.  But  there  was  also 
a  social  bias,  a  class-conscious  protest,  in  this  condemnation  of 
pleasure.  The  Lollards  came  from  the  lower  classes— poor,  hard- 
working, struggling  to  improve  their  position.  They  resented  the 
pleasures  of  the  rich— the  landed  nobility,  the  dissolute  court 
circle,  and  the  wealthier  classes  in  the  towns.  It  was  an  easy 
rationalization  of  this  natural  feeling  to  condemn  as  sinful  the 
amusements  they  could  not  themselves  enjoy.25 

Some  two  centuries  later  the  Puritans  found  themselves  in 
very  much  the  same  position.  They  too  were  a  party  of  reform, 
condemning  the  worldliness  of  the  Church  and  damning  as  sinful 
many  of  the  pleasures  that  the  Church  countenanced.  They  too 
resented  the  amusements  of  the  more  wealthy,  leisured  classes, 
making  a  moral  issue  of  their  discontent.  These  two  influences, 
spiritual  reform  and  economic  envy,  can  never  be  disentangled. 
They  were  both  present  in  the  sixteenth  and  seventeenth  cen- 
turies, and  they  have  been  present  in  every  later-day  manifes- 
tation of  the  Puritan  spirit.  The  popular  conception  of  this 
attitude  is  expressed  in  Macaulay's  often  quoted  phrase  that 
the  Puritans  forbade  bear-baiting,  not  because  of  the  pain  it 
caused  the  bear,  but  because  of  the  pleasure  it  afforded  the 
spectators.  But  it  was  rooted  in  the  belief  of  a  people  who  could 
not  afford  to  waste  time  (they  were  dominated  by  their  middle- 
class  ideals  of  money-making,  getting  ahead)  that  any  frivolous 
use  of  it  was  inherently  sinful. 

There  was  nothing  in  the  original  Calvinistic  creed  to  justify 
the  stern  attitude  that  the  Puritans  assumed.  John  Knox  once 
came  upon  Calvin  himself  playing  at  bowls,  on  a  Sunday.  So 
sincere  a  Puritan  as  Milton  expressed  again  and  again  the  most 
lively  appreciation  of  all  the  joyous  aspects  of  life  in  Merry 
England— the  sports  and  games,  the  holidays 


When  the  merry  bells  ring  round, 
And  the  jocund  rebecks  sound, 
To  many  a  youth  and  many  a  maid, 
Dancing  in  the  chequered  shade. 

But  as  the  Puritans  struggled  to  bring  about  the  reforms  they 
thought  essential,  they  grew  more  and  more  scornful  of  the  way 
of  life  of  those  who  opposed  them.  Their  disapproval  of  the 
moral  laxity  of  the  leisured  classes  of  society  soon  covered  all 
their  diversions.  Their  foes  jeered  at  them.  On  the  anvil  of 
persecution,  disapproval  was  hammered  into  fanatical  intol- 

One  of  the  most  bitter  sources  of  conflict  between  the  Puritans 
and  James  I  revolved  around  sports  and  Sabbath  observance. 
Compulsory  church  attendance  was  a  general  rule  in  the  early 
seventeenth  century— not  a  Puritan  invention;  but  after  service 
the  day  was  often  given  over  to  recreation— rough-and-tumble 
sports,  morris-dances,  interludes.  Obsessed  by  an  Old  Testament 
interpretation  of  the  meaning  of  the  Sabbath,  the  Puritans  took  it 
upon  themselves  to  condemn  utterly  this  carefree  enjoyment  on 
the  Lord's  Day.  There  should  be  no  sports  or  games,  no  dancing 
or  interludes,  no  amusements  whatsoever.  They  ascribed  to  God 
rules  for  keeping  His  day  holy  which  were  entirely  born  of  their 
own  intolerance.26 

King  James  took  up  this  challenge.  In  1618  he  issued  a  pro- 
nouncement, since  known  as  the  Book  of  Sports,  declaring  it  to 
be  the  royal  pleasure  "that  after  the  end  of  Divine  Service,  our 
good  people  be  not  disturbed,  letted,  or  discouraged  from  any 
lawfull  Recreation;  Such  as  dauncing,  either  men  or  women, 
Archeries  for  men,  leaping,  vaulting,  or  other  harmless  Recrea- 
tion, nor  from  having  of  May-games,  Whitson  Ales,  and  Morris- 
dances,  and  the  setting  up  of  Maypoles  and  other  sports 

therewith  used But  withall  We  doe  accompt  still  as  prohibited 

all  unlawful!  games  to  be  used  upon  Sundayes  onely,  as  Beare 
and  Bull-baiting,  Interludes,  and  at  all  times  in  the  meaner  sort 
of  people  by  Law  prohibited,  Bowling." 27 



^Declaration  to  His 

co  ^cj:s 

lawful!  Sports  to 



Printed  by  BON  HAM  NORTON, 

and  IOHN  B  i  LL.Depime  Printers 
fbrthe  Kings  mod  Excellenc 


Title-Page  of  King  James  Z's  "Book  of  Sports" 
London,  1618.  Courtesy  of  the  New  York  Public  Library. 


These  were  among  the  pastimes  that  Englishmen,  and  among 
them  many  of  the  prospective  settlers  of  Jamestown  and 
Plymouth,  Maryland  and  Massachusetts  Bay,  were  accustomed 
to  enjoy.  King  James  would  have  encouraged  them  by  annulling 
Sabbath  bans,  "For  when  shall  the  common  people,"  he  asked, 
"have  leave  to  exercise  if  not  upon  the  Sundayes  and  Holidays, 
seeing  they  must  apply  their  labour,  and  winne  their  living  in 
all  working  days?'*  Nevertheless,  when  their  day  of  power  came 
in  England,  the  Puritans  had  the  Book  of  Sports  publicly  burned 
by  the  common  hangman.28 

In  America,  as  we  have  seen,  the  Puritans  took  an  equally 
intolerant  stand.  They  had  sought  out  the  New  World  to  escape 
persecution,  abandoning  the  program  of  reform  at  home  to 
found  a  Utopia  across  the  seas.  They  were  determined  that  here 
there  should  be  no  trace  of  worldliness.  "God  hath  sifted  a 
nation,"  William  Stoughton  declared,  "that  he  might  send  choice 
grain  into  this  wilderness."29  Among  these  chosen  people  the 
pagan  festivities,  the  licentious  plays  and  spectacles,  the  viola- 
tions of  the  Sabbath,  the  generally  dissolute  ways  which  were 
bringing  ruin  on  England,  would  not  be  tolerated.  There  could 
be  no  evil  in  Zion.  From  the  moment  of  their  first  landing  on  the 
shores  of  New  England,  the  leaders  of  this  seventeenth-century 
exodus  set  themselves  implacably  against  the  slightest  infringe- 
ment of  their  austere  code. 

So  long  as  these  ideals  were  allied  with  the  practical  necessi- 
ties of  life,  so  long  as  the  condemnation  of  idle  sports  and  games 
conformed  to  that  paramount  need  for  day-long  labor  on  which 
the  very  survival  of  the  early  settlements  depended,  Puritanism 
served  the  colonies  well.  The  strict  rule  of  magistrates  and  min- 
isters, for  which  they  generously  acknowledged  the  inspiration  of 
God,  emphasized  the  importance  of  work  during  a  period  when 
any  turning  aside  toward  an  easier  life  might  well  have  doomed 
New  England.  This  debt  to  Puritanism  is  a  primary  fact  in 
American  history.  But  the  rulers  of  Massachusetts  Bay  and  Con- 
necticut, unlike  those  of  the  other  colonies,  became  more  and 


more  strict  in  their  insistence  upon  these  rigid  rules  of  conduct 
as  their  economic  justification  gradually  lessened. 

Suppression  became  a  fetish  of  the  Calvinist  mind  in  the  New 
World.  Having  convinced  themselves  that  all  idle  pursuits  were 
a  Satanic  trap  to  lure  the  godly  from  the  path  of  duty,  strict 
followers  of  the  New  England  way  could  no  more  tolerate 
frivolity  than  heresy.  Their  conscience  would  not  let  them  enjoy 
worldly  pleasures  themselves;  it  would  not  let  them  permit 
others  such  enjoyment.  The  compulsion  was  equal  in  either 
instance.  On  Christmas  Day  of  1621,  when  the  greater  number 
of  Plymouth  colonists  had  gone  about  their  usual  tasks,  Governor 
Bradford  was  shocked  to  discover  a  group  of  newcomers  to  that 
godly  community  "in  the  streete  at  play,  openly;  some  pitching 
the  barr  and  some  at  stoole-ball,  and  such-like  '  sports."  He 
promptly  took  away  their  "implements,"  telling  them  that  while 
it  might  be  against  their  conscience  to  work  on  Christmas,  it  was 
against  his  conscience  that  they  should  play.30  New  England's 
magistrates  took  it  upon  themselves  to  control  with  conspicuous 
zeal  every  activity  of  the  people  given  over  to  their  moral  and 
spiritual  guidance.  When  an  opportunity  to  interfere  in  any  way 
with  other  people's  lives  presented  itself,  they  joyfully  answered 
the  still,  small  voice  of  duty. 

THE  ATTITUDE  of  one  member  of  this  ruling  hierarchy  is  graphi- 
cally portrayed  in  the  intimately  self  -revealing  diary  kept  by 
Samuel  Sewall  in  the  last  decade  of  the  seventeenth  century  and 
opening  years  of  the  eighteenth.81  Magistrate  and  elder,  Judge 
Sewall  was  continually  busy  with  moral  problems,  counseling 
others  on  what  they  should  do  and  sorrowing  over  their  de- 
parture from  the  narrow  path  of  righteousness.  *1  was  grieved," 
we  find  him  writing  a  friend  on  one  occasion,  **.  .  .  when  I  heard 
and  saw  you  had  drunk  to  excess;  so  that  your  head  and  hand 
were  rendered  less  useful  than  at  other  times.  ...  I  mention  this 
that  you  may  believe  I  write  not  of  prejudice,  but  kindness;  and 


out  of  a  sense  of  duty  as  indeed  I  do."  Another  time,  when  a 
party  of  revelers  were  drinking  the  Queen's  health  with  too 
much  enthusiasm,  he  went  out  in  the  middle  of  the  night  to 
remonstrate  with  them.  They  refused  to  go  home.  He  took  down 
their  names  in  his  little  book— or  rather,  as  he  tells  us,  "not 
knowing  how  to  spell  their  names,  they  themselves  of  their  own 
accord  writ  them," 82 

Sewall  thoroughly  approved  when  Cotton  Mather  "struck  at 
the  Root,  speaking  against  mixt  Dances/'  He  maintained  an 
obdurate  stand  against  the  scandalous  suggestion  of  allowing 
play-acting  in  Boston  and  vigorously  combated  the  idea  of  any 
holiday  festivities:  "I  took  occasion  to  dehort  mine  from  Christ- 
mas-keeping and  charged  them  to  forebear."  When  a  dancing- 
master  named  Francis  Stepney  attempted  to  hold  classes,  he  took 
a  leading  part  in  seeing  that  they  were  immediately  prohibited. 
With  testy  ill-humor  he  noted  "the  great  disorder  in  the  town" 
when  the  English  introduced  the  old  sport  of  cock-skailing,  or 
throwing  sticks  at  a  cock.  "Jos,  Mayhem  carries  a  cock  at  his 
back,  with  a  Bell  in's  hand,  in  the  Main  Street,"  he  wrote  scorn- 
fully; "several  follow  him  blindfold,  and  under  pretence  of 
striking  him  or's  cock,  with  great  cart  whips  strike  passengers, 
and  make  great  disturbance." 8S 

Nevertheless  he  had  his  own  simple  pleasures.  He  thoroughly 
enjoyed  good  food  and  wine:  his  diary  bears  frequent  witness 
to  his  fondness  for  "rost  Beef  and  minc'd  Pyes,  good  Cheese  and 
Tarts,"  and  he  had  a  special  liking  for  black-cherry  brandy  with 
a  lump  of  sugar  in  it.  His  appreciation  of  nature  was  surprising. 
We  find  him  noting  happily  that  "the  Singing  of  Birds  is  come," 
and  of  seeing  "Six  Swallows  flying  together  and  chipering  very 
rapturously."  Another  time  he  speaks  of  walking  in  a  friend's 
orchard  and  getting  quiet  enjoyment  out  of  "pushing  Catter- 
pillars  off  the  Appletrees."  It  is  also  suddenly  revealing  to  find 
in  the  memorable  account  of  his  courtship  of  Madame  Winthrop 
the  passage  where  he  tells  his  lady  that  he  came  to  see  her  only 
every  other  night  for  fear  he  would  drink  too  deep  draughts  of 


pleasure— "She  had  talk'd  Canary,  her  kisses  were  to  me  better 
than  the  best  Canary." 3* 

Other  diversions  more  generally  centered  about  the  good 
judge's  religious  life.  He  often  went  to  service,  gladly  riding 
several  miles  to  the  Great  and  Thursday  at  some  outlying  town, 
taking  his  wife,  or  perhaps  his  mother-in-law,  on  the  pillion 
behind  him.  He  led  what  went  for  singing  at  his  own  meeting- 
house. There  were  only  a  few  mournful  repetitive  tunes  in  the 
Puritan  repertory,  to  which  were  sung  such  strange  distortions 
of  the  Psalms  as 

Within  their  mouths  doe  thou  their  teeth 

break  out  O  God  most  strong, 
Doe  thou  Jehovah,  the  great  teeth 

break,  of  the  lions  young. 

^1  set  York  tune  and  the  congregation  went  out  of  it  into  St. 
David's  in  the  very  2nd.  going  over,"  Sewall  wrote  in  his  diary 
one  day.  "This  seems  to  me  an  intimation  and  a  call  for  me  to 
resign  the  precentor's  place  to  a  better  voice.  I  have  through 
the  Divine  long  suffering  and  favor  done  it  for  24  years." 85 

This  upright  man  found  real  enjoyment  in  seeing  punishments 
properly  administered,  whether  it  was  a  whipping  or  a  hanging, 
and  he  had  that  morbid  preoccupation  with  death  which  was 
one  of  the  most  unpleasing  of  Puritan  characteristics.  He  took  a 
melancholy  pleasure  in  serving  as  a  pall-bearer  at  funerals,  mak- 
ing a  great  collection  of  the  gloves  and  rings  with  which  custom 
decreed  the  pall-bearer  should  be  rewarded.  He  was  always 
happy  to  undertake  this  congenial  task— unless  he  disapproved 
of  the  deceased's  morals.  But  the  obsession  with  death  found 
most  startling  expression  in  his  account  of  how  he  spent  one 
Christmas.  One  of  his  daughters  had  recently  died.  Sewall  passed 
the  day  in  the  family  tomb:  "I  was  entertained  with  a  view  of, 

and  converse  with  the  coffins 'Twas  an  awful  yet  pleasing 

Treat." *6 


IN  THESE  varied  pleasures— spying  upon  one's  neighbors,  uphold- 
ing public  morals,  going  to  church  meetings,  morbidly  contem- 
plating death—the  Puritan  leaders  might  find  some  compensation 
for  the  amusements  of  which  they  deprived  themselves.  But  they 
could  not  possibly  satisfy  the  needs  of  the  humbler  members 
of  the  community  whose  instinct  for  play  could  not  so  easily  be 
eradicated.  Even  when  these  men  and  women  in  the  ordinary 
walks  of  Me  were  wholly  in  sympathy  with  the  rule  of  the 
church,  it  was  not  enough  for  them  to  attend  service  and  go  to 
funerals.  And  increasingly  large  numbers  of  New  Englanders 
were  not  Puritans.  During  the  Great  Migration  even,  between 
1630  and  1640,  only  some  four  thousand  out  of  sixteen  thousand 
arrivals  in  Massachusetts  Bay  were  church  members.  The  rigid 
requirements  for  membership  made  it  entirely  possible  for  a 
majority  even  of  the  non-members  to  be  in  sympathy  with  the 
church,  but  nevertheless  there  was  a  dissident  element  in  the 
colony  from  the  very  first.  And  it  steadily  grew  as  more  and 
more  people  poured  into  New  England  whose  motives  for 
seeking  the  New  World  had  nothing  to  do  with  religion. 

In  their  zeal  to  maintain  godliness,  to  enforce  general  con- 
formity with  their  own  principles  of  conduct,  the  magistrates 
failed  signally  to  take  this  group  into  consideration.  Whatever 
may  be  said  for  the  first  generation  of  Puritan  leaders,  their 
successors'  inability  to  recognize  the  need  of  the  people  as  a 
whole  for  a  freer  outlet  to  the  normal  urge  for  recreation  was 
continually  adding  fuel  to  the  discontent  of  the  non-Puritans. 
They  began  to  consider  the  restraints  imposed  upon  them  an 
intolerable  burden.  Worn  out  by  the  endless  work  on  their  litde 
farms,  discouraged  by  poor  harvests,  fearful  of  famine,  plague, 
or  Indian  attack,  they  had  to  have  some  release  for  pent-up 
emotions,  some  way  to  forget  the  world. 

Many  of  them— and  this  was  true  not  only  in  New  England 
but  in  all  the  colonies— found  it  in  drinking.  The  tavern  sprang 
up  as  naturally  as  the  meeting-house,  and  the  conviviality  of  the 
tap-room  met  a  genuine  need.  They  came  of  good  drinking  stock, 


these  New  World  pioneers,  and  the  early  lack  of  malt  and 
spirituous  liquors  had  been  for  a  time  a  great  cause  for  com- 
plaint. It  is  revealing  to  find  how  proud  one  godly  minister  was 
because  he  had  learned  to  drink  water,  and  to  note  another 
worthy  writing  home  that  while  he  did  not  yet  prefer  water  to 
good  beer  as  some  professed  to  do,  "any  man  would  choose  it 
before  Bad  Beere,  Wheay,  or  Buttermilk."37  Nevertheless  the 
Puritans  did  not  allow  any  pernicious  habit  of  water-drinking  to 
take  hold.  Beer  and  cider  were  soon  plentiful;  rum  became  a 
New  England  staple.  The  taverns  and  ordinaries  everywhere 
offered  an  engaging  selection  of  drinks  to  gratify  every  taste,88 

Drunkenness  was  a  frequent  consequence  of  their  growing 
popularity.  The  early  records  show  many  cases  of  fines,  confine- 
ment in  the  stocks,  and  public  whippings  for  an  overindulgence 
which  the  lower  classes  (the  indentured  servants,  the  appren- 
tices, the  laborers )  could  hardly  avoid  with  rum  at  two  shillings 
a  gallon.  Sometimes  the  penalty  of  public  scorn  was  adminis- 
tered. "Robert  Cole,  having  been  oft  punished  for  drunkenness," 
John  Winthrop  reports  in  his  history  of  Plymouth  (an  anything 
but  isolated  case  even  for  that  sober  community),  "was  now 
ordered  to  wear  a  red  D  about  his  neck  for  a  year." Sd 

The  increase  in  drinking  and  its  attendant  evils  was  largely 
due  to  the  lack  of  other  entertainment  and  to  the  promotion  by 
tavern-keepers  of  what  was  a  very  profitable  business.  By  the  mid- 
dle of  the  seventeenth  century  the  General  Court  was  compelled 
to  recognize  that  it  had  created  a  serious  social  problem.  "How  has 
Wyne  and  Cider,  but  most  of  all  Rum  debauched  Multitudes  of 
People,"  exclaimed  the  redoubtable  Increase  Mather.  Viewing 
the  fearful  circumstances  into  which  Connecticut  had  -been 
brought,  Cotton  Mather  somewhat  later  declared  somberly  that 
"the  consequences  of  the  affected  Bottel,  in  that  Colony,  as  well 
as  in  ours,  are  beyond  Imagination."  40 

Many  other  instances  might  be  cited  to  show  the  extent  to 
which  tavern  drinking  took  the  place  of  other  amusements  in 
these  days  of  Puritan  repression.  One  law  deplored  the  growing 


custom  whereby  on  pretext  of  going  to  midweek  church  meet- 
ings, men  and  women  rode  from  town  to  town  "to  drinke  and 
revell  in  ordinarys  and  tavernes."  An  irate  clergy  thundered  the 
warning  that  "the  Riots  that  have  too  often  accompanied  our 
Huskings  have  carried  in  them  fearfull  Ingratitude  and  Provo- 
cation unto  the  Glorious  God/*  41 

It  may  well  be  noted,  however,  that  it  was  not  in  New  Eng- 
land but  in  what  has  so  often  been  called  Cavalier  Virginia  that 
an  attempt  was  made  in  the  seventeenth  century  to  enforce 
prohibition.  For  all  his  alarms,  even  Increase  Mather  accepted 
the  need  for  taverns  to  sell  liquor.  "No  sober  Minister,"  he  de- 
clared, "will  speak  against  the  Licensing  of  them."42  But  an 
Assembly  dominated  by  Nathaniel  Bacon  passed  a  law,  in  1676, 
taking  their  licenses  from  all  taverns  in  Virginia  except  those 
at  Jamestown  and  at  the  two  main  ferries  on  the  York.  These 
privileged  ordinaries  were  permitted  to  sell  beer  and  cider,  but 
otherwise  a  fine  of  one  thousand  pounds  of  tobacco  was  to  be 
imposed  on  any  one  who  sold  "any  sorte  of  drinke  or  liquor 
whatsoever  to  be  drunke  or  spent  in  his  or  their  house  or  houses, 
upon  his  or  their  plantations."  4S 

It  was  not  only  in  drinking  that  New  England  was  breaking 
through  the  bonds  of  Puritan  restraint.  The  diary  of  Samuel 
Sewall  itself  affords  graphic  evidence  of  the  revolt  against  re- 
pression. Its  accounts  of  the  pageantry  of  Joseph  Mayhew,  parad- 
ing through  the  streets  of  Boston  with  cock  and  bell;  of  attempts 
to  stage  plays  and  hold  dancing-classes;  of  the  celebration  of 
Christmas  festivities,  all  reveal  a  departure  from  the  original 
severity  of  life  in  New  England. 

This  is  shown  also  in  many  of  the  laws  that  the  magistrates 
found  it  necessary  to  pass  after  the  middle  of  the  seventeenth 
century.  They  are  fully  as  indicative  of  what  certain  elements  in 
the  growing  towns  of  New  England  were  actually  doing  as  of 
what  their  rulers  were  determined  they  should  not  do.  Laws  on 
the  statute  books  often  have  this  paradoxical  significance.  The 
future  student  of  twentieth-century  legislation  will  be  quite 


justified  in  assuming  that  our  prohibition  laws  reflected  the  popu- 
larity of  drinking  quite  as  much  as  they  represented  an  authori- 
tarian attempt  to  impose  a  dry  regime.  In  the  same  way,  much 
of  the  legislation  of  early  New  England  forbidding  tavern 
sports,  card-playing,  and  dancing  throws  a  penetrating  light  on 
how  a  very  considerable  number  of  the  people  were  spending 
such  free  time  as  they  had.  Not  the  rulers  and  magistrates,  but 
the  everyday  people  of  the  Puritan  world. 

This  is  illustrated  in  successive  edicts  with  respect  to  ob- 
servance of  the  Sabbath.  We  learn  from  the  statute  books  that 
on  Saturday  and  Sunday  young  people  were  more  and  more 
freely  taking  "liberty  to  walk  and  sport  themselves  in  the  streets 
and  fields . , .  and  too  frequently  repair  to  public  houses  of 
entertainment  and  there  sit  drinking."  44  Finally  it  even  became 
necessary  to  forbid,  on  Sunday  and  in  the  neighborhood  of 
meeting-houses,  "all  shouting,  hollowing,  screaming,  running, 
riding,  singing,  dancing,  jumping,  winding  horns  or  the  like/* 45 
Here  are  glimpses  of  a  Puritan  Sabbath  oddly  at  variance  with 
copy-book  and  historical  legend.  Some  of  the  youths  and  maidens 
of  old  New  England,  for  all  the  insistence  of  the  godly  that  the 
Sabbath  should  be  a  day  of  peace  and  quiet,  appear  to  have 
utilized  it  for  a  little  restrained  hell-raising  in  vociferous  protest 
against  the  laws. 

Indeed,  at  no  time  after  the  very  first  years  of  settlement  was 
the  New  England  scene  actually  as  devoid  of  all  amusements 
as  it  is  so  often  said  to  have  been.  The  Puritans  have  been  de- 
picted as  a  "crowd  of  sad-visaged  people  moving  duskily  through 
a  dull  gray  atmosphere";  their  social  life  has  been  termed  "bare 
and  spiritless  beyond  the  possibility  of  description." 46  But  this 
is  to  take  at  their  face  value  the  repressive  edicts  of  the  magis- 
tracy. It  ignores  the  place  in  New  England's  life  of  the  large 
number  of  its  settlers  who  were  non-Puritan  in  their  sympathies 
and  who  could  hardly  be  compelled  by  magisterial  fiat  to  accept 
the  idea  that  pleasure  was  synonomous  with  sin. 

Those  two  stern  guardians  of  public  morals,  Increase  and 


Cotton  Mather,  had  no  doubts  as  to  what  was  happening  in  the 
closing  years  of  the  seventeenth  century.  The  iniquities  of  the 
younger  generation  were  causing  the  glory  of  the  Lord  to  depart 
from  New  England.  "How  many  there  are  amongst  us  whose 
Fathers  in  coming  into  the  Wilderness,  designed  nothing  but 
.Religion,"  declared  Increase.  "But  they  are  for  another  Interest, 
Their  Hearts  are  not  but  for  the  World  ----  That  there  is  a  gen- 
eral defection  in  New  England  from  Primitive  Purity  and  Piety 
in  many  respects  is  so  plain  that  it  cannot  be  denied."  Cotton 
labored  under  no  such  restraints  in  characterizing  the  age.  "Some 
of  our  Rising  Generation,"  he  stated,  "have  been  given  up  to 
the  most  abominable  Impieties  of  Uncleaness,  Drunkeness,  and 
a  Lewd,  Rude  Extravagant  sort  of  Behaviour.  There  are  the 
Children  of  Belial  among  them,  and  Prodigies  of  Wickedness."  47 
The  Mathers  often  found  evil  in  what  another  age  would 
freely  condone.  Many  of  their  "prodigies  of  wickedness"  would 
to-day  go  unrecognized  under  such  a  description.  Their  fierce 
onslaughts  against  the  rising  generation  reflected  a  bitterness 
at  their  own  departing  glory  as  well  as  at  the  departing  glory  of 
the  Lord.  At  the  same  time  it  was  inevitable  that  reaction  to 
the  stern  rule  Puritanism  attempted  to  impose  should  in  some 
cases  lead  to  extremes.  For  in  forbidding  so  many  forms  of 
normal  recreation  the  elders  and  magistrates  had  only  served  to 
confuse  moral  values.  When  they  instituted  such  strict  laws  as 
to  forbid,  according  to  one  traveler  in  Connecticut,  "even  a 
harmless  Kiss  or  Innocent  merriment  among  Young  people,"48 
they  were  asking  for  trouble.  Human  nature  could  not  be  flouted 
with  impunity,  even  by  professed  men  of  God. 

PUBTTANISM  failed  to  eradicate  the  early  Americans*  natural  urge 
for  play.  It  brought  on  the  inevitable  revolt  against  attempted 
suppression  of  human  impulses.  Nevertheless  it  left  a  deep  im- 
print on  the  mind  of  New  England.  And  for  all  the  growth  of 
more  liberal  ideas  as  the  power  of  the  clergy  and  magistrates 


declined,  some  part  of  the  old  intolerance  lingered  on.  The 
northern  colonies  -were  always  more  restricted  in  their  diversions 
than  the  middle  colonies  or  the  South. 

The  spirit  of  Puritanism  still  has  an  important  influence  on  our 
recreational  life.  Conditions  have  so  greatly  changed  that  our 
whole  idea  of  leisure-time  activities  has  been  completely  trans- 
formed. The  suspicion  with  which  church  and  state  three  cen- 
turies ago  viewed  all  diversions  in  their  common  "detestation  of 
idleness"  has  given  way  to  the  active  encouragement  and  pro- 
motion of  every  form  of  healthful  amusement.  But  there  is  cer- 
tainly more  than  a  trace  of  the  old  Puritanism,  whatever  other 
factors  in  a  capitalistic  society  may  enter  the  picture,  in  an  attitude 
•which  so  often  views  the  increase  in  present-day  opportunities 
for  recreation  as  the  "problem  of  leisure." 


stretched  along  the  eastern  fringe  of  America  from  Maine 
to  South  Carolina  gradually  increased,  colonial  life  took  on  many 
new  aspects.  The  opening  of  the  eighteenth  century  marked  a 
far  departure  from  the  first  days  of  settlement.  The  South  had 
almost  completely  broken  away  from  earlier  restraints;  New  Eng- 
land's outlook  was  beginning  to  broaden.  The  colonists  generally 
sought  out  and  developed  opportunities  for  recreation  they  had 
not  before  had  time  to  enjoy.  Among  the  common  people,  the 
great  mass  of  yeomanry  who  made  up  nine-tenths  of  the  popu- 
lation, the  English  love  of  games  and  sports  was  reasserting  itself. 
An  eager  welcome  was  accorded  all  possible  amusements. 

It  is  not  always  easy  to  discover  just  what  form  this  recrea- 
tion took.  The  short  and  simple  annals  of  the  poor  are  no  more 
revealing  on  this  phase  of  their  life  than  of  other  aspects.  But 
there  is  sufficient  evidence  to  show  that  they  found  many  ways 
to  enjoy  themselves.  And  the  common  experience  of  colonial 
farmers  in  hunting  and  in  shooting  contests,  in  simple  country 
sports,  in  the  communal  activities  of  training  days  and  barn- 
raisings,  played  its  part  in  the  welding  of  a  nation.  These  phases 
of  colonial  recreation  more  truly  reflect  the  life  of  eighteenth- 
century  America  than  the  social  activities  of  Boston's  wealthy 
merchants,  the  dancing  assemblies  of  New  York,  or  the  fox- 
hunts of  Virginia. 

Rural  life  in  New  England  was  still  hard  and  laborious.  It  was 
back-breaking  to  induce  crops  to  grow  in  that  stony  soil.  Never- 
theless there  were  compensations  which  other  fanning  com- 



munities  in  this  country  have  not  always  enjoyed.  The  original 
settlers  had  taken  up  their  land  in  townships,  close  to  one 
another,  with  communal  pasturage  for  their  stock.  And  the  town 
had  its  meeting-house,  its  tavern,  and  later  its  town  hall.  The 
people  from  the  surrounding  countryside  could  easily  gather  for 
their  Sunday  church  services  and  midweek  lectures;  they  could 
meet  on  more  festive  occasions  at  the  tavern.  There  was  no  isola- 
tion in  the  life  of  colonial  New  England  comparable  to  that  in 
the  Middle  West  a  century  and  more  later  when  the  pioneers  of 
the  prairie  states  were  so  widely  scattered  on  their  far-separated 

The  middle  colonies,  despite  their  large  trading  towns,  were 
also  a  primarily  agricultural  community.  But  in  addition  to  farms 
comparable  to  those  of  New  England,  there  were  the  great 
estates  of  the  Dutch  patroons  along  the  Hudson,  and  in  Penn- 
sylvania and  western  New  York  many  rough  frontier  settlements. 
Conditions  were  more  varied  than  in  New  England,  and  the 
population  with  its  infiltration  of  Scotch-Irish  and  Germans  much 
more  mixed.  Consequently  we  find  amusements  and  diversions 
greatly  restricted  in  some  sections  and  in  others  freely  enjoyed. 
The  influence  of  Dutch  Calvinists  and  Pennsylvania  Quakers  was 
offset  by  the  greater  liberalism  of  other  groups  in  the  popu- 

In  the  South  highly  distinctive  economic  and  social  conditions 
prevailed.  While  the  land  to  a  great  extent  was  held  in  small 
farms  during  the  seventeenth  century  and  the  staple  crops  of 
tobacco  or  rice  were  grown  by  as  independent  and  self -respecting 
a  yeomanry  as  that  of  the  North,  the  growth  of  slavery  with  its 
substitution  of  Negro  labor  for  white  indentured  servants 
wrought  a  gradual  transformation  during  the  next  century.  It 
led  to  the  creation  of  large  plantations  which  made  it  more 
and  more  difficult  for  the  small  farmers  to  maintain  their  position. 
Slave  competition,  exhaustion  of  the  soil,  and  lower  prices  for 
tobacco  drove  many  of  them  to  the  new  lands  in  the  west  and 
tended  to  reduce  those  who  remained  near  tidewater  to  the 


status  of  poor  whites.  Nevertheless  the  southern  yeomanry  con- 
tinued to  make  up  the  bulk  of  southern  population,  sometimes 
themselves  owning  one  or  two  slaves  with  whom  they  worked  in 
the  tobacco  fields.  Their  r61e  in  colonial  life  was  still  an  im- 
portant one. 

Recreation  for  this  class  corresponded  in  many  respects  to  that 
of  the  comparable  class  in  the  North.  But  the  farms  were  more 
widely  separated,  without  centralizing  townships  as  in  New 
England.  The  small  planters  often  led  a  more  lonely  life.  On  the 
other  hand,  a  warmer  climate  and  more  productive  soil  made 
possible  greater  leisure,  while  the  institution  of  slavery,  tending 
to  deprive  work  of  the  nobility  with  which  the  Puritans  clothed 
it,  was  a  further  influence  contributing  to  an  easy-going  attitude 
in  the  use  of  this  leisure. 

Now  THAT  the  early  Americans  were  beginning  to  feel  at  home 
in  field  and  forest,  hunting  and  fishing  could  be  enjoyed  as 
sport.  The  wealth  of  game  drew  out  the  townsman  as  well  as 
the  fanner,  the  New  Englander  as  well  as  the  Carolinian.  Deer 
were  plentiful  everywhere,  and  the  wild-fowl  so  numerous  that 
account  after  account  describes  flocks  of  wild  turkeys  or  pigeons 
darkening  the  skies.  Moose  ranged  through  the  still  unbroken 
forests  of  New  England;  wolves  preyed  upon  the  outlying  set- 
tlements of  Connecticut;  bear  and  panther  were  hunted  in  the 
backwoods  of  Virginia,  and  buffalo  could  be  found  in  the  western 
parts  of  South  Carolina. 

"Bears,  Deer,  Beavers,  Otters,  Foxes,  Racounes  (almost  as  big 
as  a  Fox,  as  good  meat  as  a  lamb)  Hares,  wild  cats,  musk  rats, 
Squirrels  (flying  and  other  sorts)  and  Apossumes  of  the  big- 
nesse  and  likenesse  of  a  Pigge  of  a  month  old  .  ,  ."  reads  Ralph 
Hamors  list  of  early  Virginia's  game.  "Eagles,  wild  Turkeys 
(much  larger  than  our  English),  Cranes,  Herons  (white  and 
russet),  Hawks,  wild  pigeons  (in  winter  beyond  number  or 
imagination,  myself  have  seen  three  or  four  hours  together  flocks 

English  tavern  sports  transplanted  in  America.  From  The  Sporting  Magazine, 
London,  1795  and  1801. 

&  *x*n>  a>u(GMJA'fo  /^/ifrfxsrwfrftsm&ffiwAS &  fabM.  fo.  MtHtS*  *» <*' 

"The  Hill  Tops''  a  New  Hunting  Song 

The   first   sporting   picture   in    an    American    periodical.    Royal    American 
"MaoarA-nf.    1774 


in  the  air,  so  thick  that  even  they  have  shadowed  the  sky  from 
us),  Turkey  Buzzards,  Partridges,  Snipers,  Owls,  Swans,  Geese, 
Brants,  Ducks,  and  Mallards,  Divers,  Shel  Drakes,  Cormorants, 
Teale,  Widgeon,  Curlews,  Puits,  besides  other  small  birds,  as, 
Blackbird,  hedge  sparrows,  oxeies,  woodpeckers,  and  in  winter 

about  Christmas  many  flocks  of  Parakertoths For  Fish— the 

Rivers  are  plentifully  stored,  with  Sturgeon,  Porpasse,  Base, 
Rockfish,  Carpe,  Shad,  Herring,  Ele,  Catfish,  Perch,  Flat-fish, 
Trout,  Sheepshead,  Drummers,  Jarfish,  Crevises,  Crabs,  Oysters 
and  diverse  other  kinds." 1 

Farmers  of  Massachusetts  and  Connecticut  enjoyed  squirrel 
hunts,  went  out  often  after  raccoons  and  also  banded  together  to 
hunt  wolves.  In  New  London  ten  to  forty  men  met  together 
every  autumn  to  beat  up  the  swamps  and  kill  these  "pernicious 

There  was  a  great  deal  of  fishing,  John  Rowe,  an  enthusiastic 
angler,  noted  in  his  diary  a  day's  catch  of  five  dozen  large  trout— 
"extraordinary  sport."  It  had  been  vouchsafed  religious  approval 
in  Joseph  Seccombe's  discourse  "utter'd  in  part  at  Ammauskeeg- 
Falls,  in  the  Fishing-season,  1739."  'If  I  may  eat  them  [fish]  for 
Refreshment,"  this  worthy  divine  contended,  "I  may  as  well 
catch  them  if  this  recreate  and  refresh  me.  It's  as  lawful  to 
delight  the  Eye  as  the  Palate."2  Even  Cotton  Mather  fished. 
Samuel  Sewall  tells  of  the  time  when  the  stern  old  Puritan  went 
out  with  line  and  tackle  and  fell  into  the  water  at  Spy  Pond, 
"the  boat  being  ticklish." 

Long  Island  was  a  veritable  fish  and  game  paradise.  New 
Yorkers  "went  out  a  shooting"  regularly  at  the  opening  of  the 
century,  as  the  journal  of  the  Reverend  John  Sharp  reveals,3 
and  somewhat  later  we  find  the  sport  lending  an  element  of 
considerable  hazard  to  the  lives  of  the  island's  settlers.  In  1734  a 
woman  was  shot  accidentally  when  taken  for  a  fox.  "The  fatal 
mistake,"  reads  the  old  record,  "was  occasioned  by  her  wearing 
an  Orange  Brown  Wast-Coat.  The  man  is  in  a  very  melancholy 
condition."  The  newspaper  account  of  the  incident  advised  short- 


sighted  hunters  to  go  farther  west  where  their  mistakes  might 
not  be  so  costly.4- 

"They  have  hunting,  fishing  and  fowling,  with  which  they 
entertain  themselves  in  an  hundred  ways,"  Robert  Beverly  wrote 
of  Virginians.5  The  farmers  joined  in  moonlight  excursions  after 
opossum  as  they  have  done  ever  since,  but  a  far  more  exciting 
sport  was  hunting  the  wild  horses  which  ranged  through  the 
backwoods.  In  the  Carolinas  deer  were  hunted  on  horseback,  the 
planters  taking  a  stand  and  having  their  beaters  drive  the  deer 
past  them.  Sometimes  such  expeditions  were  held  at  night,  the 
huntsmen  well  fortified  with  brandy  and  accompanied  by  Ne- 
groes carrying  pans  of  burning  charcoal  to  serve  as  flares.  In 
1784  they  were  made  a  misdemeanor  because  of  the  inadvertent 
slaughter  of  so  many  cows  and  horses.6 

How  general  hunting  was  in  the  South  is  shown  in  a  statement 
in  George  Alsop's  seventeenth-century  account  of  life  in  Mary- 
land: "For  every  Servant  has  a  Gun,  Powder  and  Shot  allowed 
him,  to  sport  withall  on  all  Holidays  and  leasurable  times.  .  .  ."  7 

ALTHOUGH  they  were  relatively  rare,  gatherings  at  training  days 
and  elections,  at  country  fairs,  corn-huskings,  and  barn-raisings, 
provided  welcome  breaks  in  the  monotony  of  farm  life.  Folk- 
dancing  and  folk-music  were  enjoyed  on  these  occasions,  with 
the  singing  of  the  popular  English  ballads  which  were  being 
hawked  through  the  countryside,  even  of  Massachusetts,  as  early 
as  1680.  There  were  sports—  shooting  at  a  mark,  foot-races, 
wrestling  matches—and  a  great  deal  of  convivial  drinking.  "Pos- 
sibly this  leafe  may  last  a  century/'  reads  an  entry  for  October 
14,  1766,  in  the  diary  of  Nathaniel  Ames,  a  young  man  living  in 
Dedham,  Massachusetts,  "and  fall  into  the  hands  of  some  in- 
quisitive Person  for  whose  Entertainment  I  will  inform  him  that 
now  there  is  the  custom  amongst  us  of  making  an  Entertainment 
at  husking  of  Indian  Corne  whereunto  all  the  neighboring  Swains 
are  invited,  and  after  the  Corn  is  finished  they,  like  the  Hottea- 


tots,  give  three  cheers  or  huzzas,  but  cannot  carry  in  the  husks 
without  a  Rhum  bottle.  They  feign  great  exertion,  but  do  nothing 
until  the  Rhum  enlivens  them,  when  all  is  done  in  a  trice;  then, 
after  a  hearty  meal  about  10  at  night,  they  go  to  their  pastimes," 8 
There  is  a  somewhat  unpuritanic  record  of  certain  of  these 
pastimes  in  a  poem  of  another  countryman,  Jacob  Bailey,  proba- 
bly written  when  he  was  teaching  school  at  Kingston,  New 
Hampshire,  about  1755: 

The  chairs  in  wild  disorder  flew  quite  round  the  room. 

Some  threatened  with  firebrands,  some  brandished  a  broom, 

While  others,  resolved  to  increase  the  uproar, 

Lay  tussling  the  girls  in  wide  heaps  on  the  floor.9 

.--          '      ^ 

It  was  the  custom  at  the  "frolic  scene,"  as  is  well  known,  for 
the  young  man  who  might  find  a  red  ear  of  corn  to  claim  a  kiss 
from  whatever  damsel  he  chose.  On  one  occasion— it  was  in  a  day 
when  strict  Puritan  supervision  was  responsible  for  the  story 
being  spread  on  the  town  records— difficulties  arose  over  the 
interpretation  of  this  genial  law  of  the  husking-bee.  James  Chi- 
cester  found  a  red  ear  and  promptly  kissed  Bette  Scudder.  But 
the  young  lady  objected  and  somewhat  bluntly  told  him  she 
"would  whip  his  brick."  In  the  ensuing  scuffle  Goody  Scudder 
came  to  her  daughter's  defense,  and  the  unfortunate  James  was 
fined  twelve  shillings  for  his  temerity.10 

Quite  different  is  the  story  of  Sarah  Tutde,  similarly  honored 
by  one  Jacob  Murline.  "They  sat  down  together,"  we  learn  again 
from  the  court  records,  "his  arm  being  about  her,  and  her  arm 
upon  his  shoulder  or  about  his  neck,  and  hee  kissed  her  and  shee 
kissed  him,  or  they  kissed  one  another,  continuing  in  this  posture 
about  half  an  hour."  This  was  too  much  for  the  elders,  and  Jacob 
was  hailed  before  the  magistrate  on  a  charge  of  "inveigling" 
Sarah.  But  Sarah  promptly  owned  up  that  there  had  been  no 
inveigling:  she  had  wanted  to  be  kissed.  The  shocked  magistrate 
thereupon  denounced  her  for  a  "Bould  Virgin,"  and  although 
she  demurely  acknowledged  her  error,  expressing  the  hope  that 


"God  would  help  her  to  Carry  it  Better  for  time  to  come,"  a 
heavy  fine  was  imposed.11 

The  flirtations  and  love-affairs  of  young  people  naturally  sug- 
gest the  curious  custom  of  bundling,  widely  prevalent  in  New 
England  and  Pennsylvania.  Its  origin  was  supposedly  found 
(although  the  custom  has  also  been  noted  among  other  peoples) 
in  the  premium  placed  on  heat  and  light  in  those  early  days  of 
settlement  when  the  whole  family  had  to  roll  up  together  in 
front  of  the  open  fire  on  cold  winter  evenings.  A  visitor  could 
be  offered  only  such  hospitality  as  the  house  afforded,  and  con- 
sequently bundling  became  among  country  people  a  natural 
and  accepted  form  of  courtship.  Andrew  Burnaby,  writing  as 
late  as  1775,  describes  how  the  young  folk  in  a  home  he  was 
visiting  got  into  bed  together— "but  without  pulling  off  their 
undergarments,  in  order  to  prevent  scandal/*  On  a  tour  through 
Pennsylvania  at  the  close  of  the  century,  John  Bernard  also  noted 
the  custom  under  the  name  of  "tarrying."  He  reported  that  in 
extending  the  hospitality  of  her  bed  it  was  customary  for  the 
girl  to  take  the  thoughtful  precaution  of  "confining  her  petticoat 
to  her  ankles." 12 

Bundling  was  not  always  as  safe  as  these  measures  would  sug- 
gest. The  approving  Mr.  Burnaby  wrote  that  pregnancy  was 
"an  accident  that  seldom  happens,"  but  at  times  all  precautions 
failed.  In  the  case  of  engaged  couples,  however,  public  dis- 
approval of  premarital  relations  was  tempered,  even  in  the 
strictest  circles,  by  the  desirability  of  large  families  in  a  primi- 
tive farming  community.  Marriage  expiated  all  guilt.  In  1722 
there  was  nothing  out  of  the  way  in  a  Harvard  student  society's 
publicly  debating  'Whether  it  be  Fornication  to  lye  with  ones 
Sweetheart  (after  contract)  before  Marriage?"13 

Nevertheless  bundling  of  itself  certainly  did  not  imply  any  im- 
proper relationship.  It  was  perhaps  the  eighteenth-century  equiv- 
alent of  the  buggy  drive  of  the  next  century,  or  of  the  evening 
automobile  ride  of  our  present  age.  Abigail  Adams  refers  casually 
to  it  in  several  of  her  letters.  There  is  a  comfortable  description 


of  bucolic  life  in  Royall  Tyler's  play  The  Contrast:  "twenty  acres 
of  rock,  the  Bible,  Tabitha,  and  a  little  peaceable  bundling."  A 
young  Connecticut  girl  gaily  records  in  her  1775  diary  how  sister 
Ellen  bundled  "till  sun  about  3  hours  high,"  adding 

If  I  won't  take  my  sparks  to  bed 
A  laughing  stock  I  shall  be  made.14 

"THEIR  DIVERSIONS  in  this  part  of  the  Country,"  wrote  Madame 
Sarah  Knight,  as  that  "fearfull  female  travailer,"  journeyed 
through  Connecticut  in  1704,  "are  on  Lecture  days  and  Trailing 
days  mostly:  on  the  former  there  is  Riding  from  town  to  town.  .  .  . 
And  on  Training  dayes  the  Youth  divert  themselves  by  Shooting 
at  the  Target,  as  they  call  it,  (but  it  very  much  resembles  a 
pillory,)  when  hee  that  hitts  neerest  the  white  has  some  yards 
of  Red  Ribbin  presented  him,  which  being  tied  to  his  hattband, 
the  two  ends  streaming  down  his  back,  he  is  led  away  in 
Triumph,  with  great  applause,  as  the  winners  of  the  Olympiack 
Games."  15 

No  less  a  one  than  Judge  Sewall  used  to  attend  training  days 
in  Boston,  where  upwards  of  a  thousand  men  would  gather  on 
the  Common  to  drill,  practise  markmanship,  and  then  celebrate 
the  day  in  more  lively  fashion.  "Go  to  prayer.  March  down  and 
shoot  at  a  mark,"  was  his  usual  laconic  description  of  this  great 
event.  But  he  also  records  that  on  one  occasion  he  presented 
his  company,  as  a  prize  for  marksmanship,  with  a  pike  headed 
and  shod  with  silver,  which  he  supposed  would  stand  him  some 
forty  shillings.  On  another  he  had  the  entire  company  to  his 
house  and  treated  them  with  bread,  beer,  and  wine  syllabub.  A 
third  time,  after  some  recent  bereavement,  he  gives  a  pathetic 
picture  of  marching  sadly  off  to  muster:  "I  put  on  my  mourning 
rapier,  and  put  a  black  ribbon  in  my  little  cane."  1S 

The  celebration  of  training  days,  as  of  election  days  and  court 
days,  almost  invariably  ended  in  a  general  descent  upon  the  local 
tavern.  There  was  no  other  occasion  when  colonial  neighbors  so 


much  enjoyed  passing  around  a  friendly  bottle.  At  the  opening 
of  the  eighteenth  century,  Cotton  Mather  was  already  thunder- 
ing against  "Training  Days  become  little  other  than  Drinking 
Dayes,"  but  though  his  voice  reached  throughout  New  England, 
it  was  more  and  more  ignored.  And  going  south,  through  the 
middle  colonies  into  Virginia  and  the  Carolinas,  it  would  have 
been  hard  to  say  whether  there  was  more  or  less  drinking.  There 
is,  for  instance,  the  evidence  of  Ebenezer  Cook,  from  his 
memorable  "Sot-Weed  Factor,'*  which  relates  the  traveler's  expe- 
rience on  seeking  out  the  tavern  on  a  Maryland  court  day: 

A  Herd  of  Planters  on  the  ground, 

O'er-whelmed  with  Punch,  dead  drunk  we  found.17 

Country  fairs  drew  crowds  of  merrymakers.  The  social  gath- 
erings in  New  England  were  more  likely  to  be  associated  with 
useful  communal  work— house-raisings,  sheep-shearings,  log- 
rollings, or  husking-bees;  but  Virginia  more  naturally  had  meet- 
ings where  there  was  little  pretense  of  utility  and  a  wide  variety 
of  diversions.  Here  was  in  evidence  more  of  the  spirit  of  Merry 
England  than  Puritans  could  easily  express—horse-racing,  chasing 
a  greased  pig,  dancing  on  green  lawns. 

An  advertisement  in  the  Virginia  Gazette  for  October,  1737, 
tells  of  some  of  these  sports  and  the  prizes  offered  for  them.  It 
was  proposed  that  a  pair  of  silver  buckles  be  wrestled  for;  that  a 
pair  of  handsome  shoes  be  danced  for;  that  a  hat  of  the  value  of 
twenty  shillings  be  cudgeled  for;  that  a  violin  be  played  for  by 
twenty  fiddlers;  that  a  quire  of  Ballads  be  sung  for  by  a  number 
of  songsters;  and  "that  a  pair  of  handsome  Silk  Stockings  of  one 
Pistole  value  be  given  to  the  handsomest  young  country  maid 
that  appears  in  the  field."  In  the  case  of  the  songsters  it  was 
announced  that  they  would  be  allowed  liquor  sufficient  to  clear 
their  wind  pipes,"  but  the  advertisement  closed  with  the  admoni- 
tion that  "as  this  mirth  is  designed  to  be  purely  innocent  and  void 
of  offence,  all  persons  resorting  there  are  desired  to  behave  them- 
selves with  decency  and  sobriety." 18 


Still  another  colonial  holiday  was  the  college  commencement. 
At  Harvard,  Yale,  and  Princeton,  graduation  exercises  drew  not 
only  "a  vast  concourse  of  the  politest  company"  to  listen  to  the 
day's  oratory  and  debates,  but  also  crowds  o£  simple  country 
folk  who  made  the  occasion  one  for  horse-racing,  games,  dancing, 
and  drinking.  "Fe-o,  whiraw,  whiraw,  hi,  fal,  lal,  fal,  lal,  lal,  de 
lal  dal,  a  fine  song:  commencement  is  over  whiraw  I  say  again 
whiraw  whiraw,"  wrote  one  exuberant  graduate  of  Nassau  Hall 
who  would  appear  to  have  confused  those  phases  of  commence- 
ment intended  for  the  student  body  with  the  more  general  cele- 
bration of  the  day.19 

At  Harvard  too  the  exercises  did  not  always  conform  to  the 
expected  academic  traditions.  The  day's  activities  were  satirically 
recorded  early  in  the  eighteenth  century: 

Some  spend  the  Time  at  Pins  (that  toilsome  Play) 
Others  at  cards  (more  silent)  pass  the  Day. 
In  rings  some  Wrestle  till  they're  mad  outright, 
And  then  their  Antagonists  they  fight. 

On  Horses  some  to  ride  full  Tilt  along 

Are  seen;  while  on  each  side  a  Numerous  Throng 

Do  gaze.  .  .  . 

Others  (as  brutish)  do  propagate  their  Kind: 

Where  amorous  Lads  to  shady  Groves  resort, 

And  under  Venus  with  their  Misses  sport.20 

The  colonial  colleges  had  to  change  the  date  of  commence- 
ment in  order  to  prevent  the  occasion  from  turning  into  too 
festive  a  celebration.  Nassau  Hall  shifted  it  from  autumn  to 
spring  in  the  hope  that  their  planting  and  sowing  might  keep  the 
farmers  at  home. 

THESE  F^TE-DAYS  were  not  the  only  occasion  for  sports.  'This  is 
to  give  Notice/'  reads  an  announcement  in  the  Boston  News- 
Letter  of  August  22-29,  1715,  "that  at  Cambridge  on  Wednesday 
the  21st  day  of  September  next,  will  be  run  for,  a  Twenty  Pound 


Plate,  by  any  Horse,  Mare  or  Gelding  not  exceeding  Fourteen 

and  half  hands  high " 21  There  are  many  records  of  cockfights 

—"fought  cocks  in  the  Town  House"  is  one  surprising  entry  in  the 
diary  of  a  Salem  resident  in  1744— and  also  of  New  England  bull- 
baitings  and  bear-baitings.22  But  while  members  of  the  Puritan 
communities  appear  to  have  enjoyed  these  spectacles,  they  were 
much  more  common  in  the  South  than  in  the  North.  Activities 
in  which  the  people  themselves  could  take  part  were  the  more 
general  rule  in  Massachusetts  and  Connecticut.  Sleighing  was  a 
favorite  winter  diversion;  in  the  summer  men  and  boys  went 
swimming.  Many  accounts  refer  to  cricket,  "bat  &  Ball,**  and 

"The  place  we  went  to  was  a  Town  calTd  Rowley,  where  most 
of  the  inhabitants  had  been  Clothiers,"  John  Dunton  wrote  during 
his  New  England  travels  in  1686;  "but  there  was  that  Day  a  great 
game  of  Foot-Ball  to  be  play'd  with  their  bare  feet,  which  I 
thought  was  very  odd;  but  it  was  upon  a  broad  Sandy  Shoar, 
free  from  Stones,  which  made  it  more  easy.  Neither  were  they 
so  apt  to  trip  up  one  anothers  heels  and  quarrel,  as  I  have  seen 
*em  in  England." 2*  A  century  later  William  Bentiey  also  speaks 
of  football  as  being  played  by  the  fishermen  of  Marblehead. 
"The  bruising  of  shins,"  he  adds  to  his  account,  "has  rendered 
it  rather  disagreeable  to  those  of  better  education,  who  use  a 
hand  ball,  thrown  up  against  an  house  or  fence  instead  of  the 
Foot  Ball,  which  is  unfriendly  to  clothes  as  well  as  safety."25 

In  New  York  the  influence  of  the  Dutch  settlers  made  bowling 
the  most  popular  pastime,  and  on  the  basis  of  Sabbath-day 
regulations  forbidding  certain  amusements  during  the  hours  of 
service  (not  for  the  entire  day  as  in  the  case  of  New  England), 
there  were  "Dancing,  Card-playing,  Tick-tacking  [a  type  of 
backgammon],  Playing  at  ball,  at  bowls,  at  ninepins;  taking 
jaunts  in  Boats,  Wagons  or  Carriages."26  Another  regulation, 
passed  in  the  days  when  New  York  was  still  New  Amsterdam, 
prohibited  picking  strawberries  on  Sunday,  and  it  would  seem 
to  merit  description  as  a  Long  Island  sport. 


"Such  abundance  of  strawberries  is  in  June/'  Daniel  Denton 
wrote,  "that  the  fields  and  woods  are  dyed  red;  which  the 
country  people  perceiving,  instantly  arm  themselves  with  bottles 
of  wine,  cream  and  sugar,  and  instead  of  a  coat  of  Mail  every 
one  takes  a  Female  upon  his  Horse  behind  him,  and  so  rushing 
violently  into  the  fields,  never  leave  them  till  they  have  disrobed 
them  of  their  colors  and  turned  them  into  the  old  habit."  27 

Winter  brought  out  many  skaters,  a  sport  for  which  the  Dutch 
again  were  primarily  responsible.  Ice  carnivals,  where  the  trades- 
people set  up  little  booths  selling  liquor  and  sweetmeats,  were 
held  with  racing  and  hockey.  The  children  coasted;  in  Albany 
regulations  had  to  be  passed  for  the  protection  of  pedestrians.28 

In  the  southern  colonies  the  stratified  social  order  based  on 
the  ownership  of  large  plantations  sometimes  led  to  the  drawing 
of  class  lines  in  sports  activities.  While  the  diversions  of  the 
semiannual  fair  at  Williamsburg  in  the  middle  of  the  eight- 
eenth century  were  apparently  open  to  all  comers,  Sir  Francis 
Nicholson  had  in  1691  instituted  a  more  exclusive  series  of 
athletic  games.  He  offered  prizes  "to  be  shott  for,  wrasttled,  played 
at  back-swords,  &  run  for  by  Horse  and  foott,"  but  expressly 
provided  that  "all  which  prizes  are  to  be  shott  for  and  played  for 
by  the  better  sort  of  Virginians  only,  who  are  Batchelors." 29 

One  of  the  earliest  records  of  horse-racing,  which  was  to  be- 
come Virginia's  most  popular  sport,  also  has  this  undemocratic 
note.  A  tailor  was  fined  in  1674  for  "haveing  made  a  race  for  his 
mare  to  runn  with  a  horse  belonging  to  Mr.  Mathew  Slader  for 
twoe  thousand  pounds  of  tobacco  and  cash,  it  being  contrary  to 
law  for  a  Labourer  to  make  a  race,  being  a  sport  for  Gentle- 
men."8? But  the  interest  of  every  Virginian— "almost  every  or- 
dinary person  keeps  a  horse,"  wrote  a  traveler  early  in  the  next 
century 81— made  it  impossible  to  restrict  racing  to  the  gentry. 
Entirely  apart  from  the  fashionable  meets  at  Williamsburg  or 
Annapolis,  with  their  expensive  trophies  and  heavy  betting,  it 
became  a  universal  feature  of  country  life.  The  wealthy  planters 
might  have  their  blooded  horses  and  imported  stock,  but  the 


small  farmer  was  ready  to  make  a  match  with  his  own  riding 
horse  anywhere  and  any  time.  Quarter-racing  (an  informal 
quarter-mile  match)  was  a  leading  village  sport,  one  visitor 
noting  on  occasion  how  the  course  was  lined  with  a  "motley 
multitude  of  negroes,  Dutchmen,  Yankee  pedlers,  and  back- 
woodsmen." 32 

Cock-fighting  was  another  pastime  distinctive  of  plantation 
life,  far  more  popular  than  in  New  England.  Its  pitched  mains 
attracted  spectators  of  all  ranks,  plantation  owner,  poor  white, 
and  Negro  slave  hovering  together  over  the  pit.  "The  roads  as  we 
approached  the  scene,"  wrote  a  northern  visitor,  "were  alive  with 
carriages,  horses,  and  pedestrians,  black  and  white,  hastening 
to  the  point  of  attraction.  Several  houses  formed  a  spacious 
square,  in  the  center  of  which  was  arranged  a  large  cock-pit; 
surrounded  by  many  genteel  people,  promiscuously  mingled  with 
the  vulgar  and  debased."  He  was  enthusiastic  over  the  beauty  of 
the  cocks  and  their  amazing  gameness,  but  it  was  too  much  for 
him:  *1  soon  sickened  at  this  barbarous  sport,  and  retired  under 
the  shade  of  a  widespread  willow."33 

Many  of  the  visitors  to  the  southern  colonies,  both  those  from 
the  North  and  those  from  Europe,  were  shocked  by  the  r&le 
that  horse-racing  and  cock-fighting  appeared  to  play  in  the  lives 
of  the  people.  They  seemed  to  have  time  for  nothing  else.  "The 
Common  Planters,"  Hugh  Jones  wrote  in  1724  with  some 
asperity,  "don't  much  admire  Labour  or  any  other  manly  exer- 
cise except  Horse  racing,  nor  diversion,  except  Cock-Fighting, 
in  which  some  greatly  delight.  This  easy  Way  of  Living,  and  the 
Heat  of  the  Summer  make  some  very  lazy,  who  are  then  said  to 
be  Climate-struck."3*  At  the  close  of  the  century  the  Marquis 
of  Chastellux  was  even  more  critical.  "The  indolence  and  dissipa- 
tion of  the  middling  and  lower  classes  of  white  inhabitants  of 
Virginia,"  he  declared,  "are  such  as  to  give  pain  to  every  reflect- 
ing mind.  Horse  racing,  cock  fighting,  and  boxing  matches  are 
standing  amusements,  for  which  they  neglect  all  business." 85 


OTHER  AMUSEMENTS  common  to  all  the  colonies  were  those  asso- 
ciated with  the  taverns.  The  bans  upon  unlawful  games  imposed 
by  the  Puritans  have  already  been  noted  as  indicating  diversions 
which  the  colonists  in  New  England  surreptitiously  enjoyed  even 
in  the  seventeenth  century.  In  later  years  there  was  a  progressive 
relaxation  in  the  enforcement  of  these  rules.  Instances  may  be 
found  in  which  the  licenses  granted  innkeepers  still  prohibited 
all  cards,  dice,  ninepins,  and  shuffle-board,  but  open  advertise- 
ments in  the  colonial  newspapers  may  be  set  against  obsolete 
statutes.  The  tavern  was  a  social  center,  primarily  for  drinking, 
but  also  for  all  manner  of  popular  pastimes.36 

"In  most  country  towns,"  John  Adams  wrote  of  New  England 
in  1761,  **. . .  you  will  find  almost  every  other  house  with  a  sign 

of  entertainment  before  it If  you  sit  the  evening,  you  will 

find  the  house  full  of  people,  drinking  drams,  flip,  toddy,  carous- 
ing, swearing."87  There  were  not  as  many  towns  to  support 
taverns  in  the  South,  and  the  isolation  of  the  plantations  made 
people  of  all  classes  so  eager  to  entertain  chance  travelers  that 
keepers  of  ordinaries  complained  that  their  business  was  one 
hardly  worth  following.  Nevertheless  they  could  always  be  found 
at  the  county-seats  and  at  the  frequent  ferry  crossings. 

An  advertisement  in  the  New  England  Courant  for  April  30, 
1722,  announced  that  a  public  house  in  Charlestown,  Massachu- 
setts, had  tables  for  those  who  Tiad  a  Mind  to  Recreate  them- 
selves with  a  Game  of  Billiards." S8  Alexander  Macraby  singled 
out  what  he  thought  a  vile  practice  in  the  taverns  of  New  York: 
T[  mean  that  of  playing  backgammon  (a  noise  I  detest)  which 
is  going  forward  in  the  public  coffee-houses  from  morning  till 
night,  frequently  ten  or  a  dozen  tables  at  a  time." 30  Dicing  was 
even  more  popular,  fines  for  playing  it  having  to  be  imposed 
upon  apprentices,  journeymen,  servants,  and  sailors.  In  Virginia 
a  traveler  speaks  of  finding  planters  at  cards  and  ninepins  even 
in  the  early  morning  hours. 

Shooting  matches,  a  favorite  amusement  of  the  colonial  farmer 
north  and  south,  were  often  held  at  the  local  tavern.  With  an 


eye  to  trade  the  landlord  would  put  up  prizes,  generally  the 
fowls  that  were  used  as  marks.  He  could  count  on  a  tidy  profit 
from  the  drinking  which  was  such  an  essential  part  of  the  event. 
"There  will  be  a  Bear,  and  a  Number  of  Turkeys  set  up  as  a 
Mark  next  Thursday  Beforenoon,"  reads  an  advertisement  of 
one  such  contest,  "at  the  Punch  Bowl  Tavern  in  Brookline."  40 

In  addition  to  providing  games  and  also  serving  as  head- 
quarters for  cock-fights  and  animal  baitings,  the  tavern  was  a 
popular  place  for  country  dances.  It  was  not  only  the  colonial 
aristocracy  who  danced  in  the  eighteenth  century.  This  diversion 
was  enjoyed  by  all  classes.  Although  Puritan  prejudice  was  never 
entirely  dissipated,  the  role  of  ordination  balls  in  Connecticut 
social  life  indicates  how  much  the  attitude  had  changed.  The 
tavern-keeper's  bill  for  one  of  these  affairs  included  seventy- 
four  bowls  of  punch,  twenty-eight  bottles  of  wine,  and  eight 
bowls  cf  brandy,41  At  the  close  of  the  century  a  contemporary 
historian  declared  that  dancing  had  become  "the  principal  and 
favorite  amusement  in  New  England;  and  of  this  the  young 
people  of  both  sexes  are  extremely  fond."42  Its  hold  upon  the 
South  may  be  illustrated  by  the  will  of  Charles  Carter.  He  care- 
fully stipulated,  in  1762,  that  his  daughters  should  be  "brought 
up  frugally  and  taught  to  dance." 43 

Country  people  did  not  dance  'la  minuet  de  la  cour,  with  the 
gavet,"  or  "la  minuet  ordinaire  with  pas  grave,"  so  popular  with 
the  gentry.  Their  dances  were  jigs  and  reels,  gay  and  boisterous, 
the  square  dances  still  known  in  rural  communities.  They 
amazed  one  sophisticated  observer  in  the  South.  "These  dances 
are  without  method  or  regularity/'  he  wrote.  "A  gentleman  and 
lady  stand  up,  and  dance  about  the  room,  one  of  them  retiring 
and  the  other  pursuing,  then  perhaps  meeting,  in  an  irregular 
fantastical  manner.  After  some  time  another  lady  gets  up,  and 
then  the  first  lady  must  sit  down,  she  being,  as  they  term  it,  cut 
out  The  second  lady  acts  the  same  part  which  the  first  did,  till 
somebody  cuts  her  out.  The  gentlemen  perform  in  the  same 
manner."  He  added  ungraciously  that  "in  this  they  discover 





Q    ^ 

^3       ft< 





great  want  of  taste  and  elegance  and  seldom  appear  with  the 
grace  and  ease  which  those  movements  are  so  calculated  to 
display."  44  To  another  traveler  the  "latitude  of  shuffle"  and  alter- 
nate pursuit  of  lady  and  gentleman  in  these  country  dances 
appeared  to  test  "at  every  turn  the  respective  strength  of  their 
sinews." 4S 

The  music  might  be  a  small  orchestra  of  flute,  viol,  and 
spinnet,  as  provided  by  Benjamin  Parker  for  the  dance-hall  in  his 
tavern  at  Medford,  Massachusetts.  It  was  more  generally  furnished 
by  an  ancient  fiddler  or  Negro  slave  with  strumming  banjo. 
Farm  boys  and  girls,  in  leather  jerkins  and  homespun  gowns, 
asked  only  that  the  tune  be  lively.  Often  they  danced  until 
dawn,  and  sometimes  they  appear  to  have  spent  all  their  sub- 
stance on  the  flips  and  toddy  so  obligingly  sold  by  the  tavern- 
keeper.  There  is  a  plea  in  one  colonial  paper  respectfully  asking 
those  who  had  attended  a  recent  dance  "to  pay  the  honest  fiddler 
for  his  trouble  and  wearing  out  of  his  strings,  for  he  gathered 
but  12d.  among  the  whole  company."46 

Occasionally  a  traveling  performer— acrobat,  tight-rope  dancer, 
juggler,  the  exhibitor  of  a  learned  dog  or  sapient  pig— appeared 
at  the  tavern  to  provide  the  villagers  with  amusement  of  a  quite 
different  sort.  It  was  a  rare  event.  Such  entertainment  was  seldom 
found  except  in  the  larger  towns.  Nevertheless  there  were  some 
forerunners  of  the  traveling  wagon  shows  which  in  another 
century  were  gradually  to  evolve  into  the  circus. 

A  wild  animal  always  proved  a  popular  exhibition  in  town  or 
country.  The  earliest  notice  of  one  appears  somewhat  mys- 
teriously in  Samuel  SewalTs  diary,  in  1714:  "May  12.  In  a  piece 
of  Gazett,  mentioned,  a  large  Dromedary  seven  foot  high,  and 
12  foot  long,  taken  from  the  Turks  at  the  Siege  of  Vienna,  to  be 
sold."  47  Was  this  dromedary  actually  in  America?  If  so,  it  must 
have  been  an  appalling  apparition  as  it  soberly  paraded  through 
the  twisted  lanes  of  puritan  Boston  at  the  opening  of  the  eight- 
eenth century.  A  few  years  later  a  lion  was  taken  on  tour 
throughout  the  northern  colonies,  royally  caged  in  an  ox  cart. 


His  progress  may  be  traced  from  Boston  to  Philadelphia.  Some- 
what later  he  appears  again  in  New  London,  having  in  the 
meantime  been  as  far  north  as  Albany.  Nor  did  he  neglect  Long 
Island.  The  New  Yorfc  Gazette  in  May,  1728,  stated  in  its 
announcement  of  the  Jamaica  fair,  "It  is  expected  that  the  Lyon 
will  be  there  to  be  seen." 4S 

There  was  a  white  bear  on  tour  in  1733— "a  sight  far  preferable 
to  the  Lion  in  the  Judgment  of  all  Persons  who  have  seen  them 
both"— and  also  "a  very  strange  &  Wonderful  Creature  called  a 
Sea  Lion."  One  advertisement  tells  of  a  'wild  animal  lately 
brought  from  the  Mississippi,  called  a  Buffalo,"  and  another  of 
what  must  have  been  a  monkey— "a  creature  called  a  Japanese 
about  2  feet  high,  his  body  resembling  a  human  body  in  all  parts 
except  the  feet  and  tail."  The  first  elephant  to  visit  America 
was  brought  from  Bengal  by  Captain  David  Crowninshield  in 
1796.  It  was  immediately  taken  on  tour,  the  Reverend  William 
Bentley  looking  it  over  while  on  exhibition  at  Salem.  He  recorded 
in  his  diary  that  the  elephant  could  pull  out  the  cork  and  drink  a 
bottle  of  port.49 

More  ambitious  showmen  than  these  wandering  animal  train- 
ers staged  various  exhibits  from  elaborate  panoramas  to  acrobatic 
performances.  They  reached  the  village  tavern  even  more  rarely 
than  the  peripatetic  bears  and  lions,  but  their  appeal  was  to  the 
same  class  in  colonial  society.  Their  shows  were  for  the  common 
man.  Again  Samuel  SewalTs  diary  provides  one  of  the  earliest 
records  of  such  entertainment.  The  magistrates  had  trouble,  in 
1687,  with  a  tavern-keeper  who  set  aside  one  of  his  rooms  "for 
a  man  to  shew  tricks  in."  He  was  persuaded  of  the  error  of  his 
ways  ('lie  saith  seeing  'tis  offensive,  he  will  remedy  it"),  and 
the  disciplinary  meeting  broke  up  with  singing  the  ninetieth 

Apparently  more  successful  was  the  exhibition,  possibly  the 
first  advertised  in  a  colonial  newspaper,  of  a  "curious  and  exact 
Modell  of  the  Czar  of  Muscovia's  Country  seat,  near  Moscow." 
"Tis  the  most  Ingenious  and  Compleat  piece  of  Workmanship  of 

To    the    C    U    R    I    O    U    S. 

To  beTeeaat  Myor  Leaycirvrorth's  Stable,  oppofite  Mr.  Lothrop's,  State-Street, 

Two     CAMELS, 

Male  and   Female,  lately  imported  from 

^HESE  ftupendous  Animals  aremoft  deferring  the  Attention  of  the  Curious, 
X     bring  the  greateft  natural  Curiofity  ever  exhibited  to  the  Public  on  this 
Continent.    They  are  Nineteen  Hands  high;  hare  Necks  near  Four  Feet  long; 
have  a  large  high  Bunch  on  their  Backs,  and  another  under  their  Breafts,  in  the 
Form  of  aPedeftal,  on  which  they  fupport  themfelves  when  lying  down$  they 
have  Four  Joints  in  their  hind  Legs,  and  will  travel  Twelve  or  Fourteen  Days 
without  drinking^  and  cany  a  Burden  of  Etfteen  Hundred  Weight  $  they  are  ts* 
k  markably  harmless  and  docile,  and  will  He  down  and  rife  at  Command. 

Price  of  *  Admittance  for  a  Gentleman  or  Lady,  NINE-PENCE  each. 

_,., sffttilat  tt  — ,  __-. 

At  tie  Seruat  ttok  Ttm  Cands,  oftlx  Caailt  •ftu 
tattUt  Came]!  to  kneel  down  «irt«irf  tbt  Cry,  *f  a . 
Wmttr.    Fmirtfto*arta*ltltS*rvmtt*idfiietu&it 
ttat&ttnUn  tt  At  Lmtd  «/Ca««u»  mdkcmttkt » 

V  Kbdni,  <W  ukt  tWift  mm  *j  &•  Jptoe. 
tt  MeCspwunii,  *o»  tit  Coy  K*hor.  A*  ** 
»  Svtiti!*,  ***  1**T*«  tk*1rm**gt  ****** 


fir  0»f^t  tftkttirntt*  Srotr**  **i  JG»*u?0/rJUftkecA«, 
AJttyfr  nuy  Kctecah,  tUr  5jf«r,  visk  Sir  &*&*,  «W 
y^^  ^^ 

Exotic  Animals  on  Show  in  New  England 

An  advertisement  in  The  Connecticut  Journal,  June  30-July  7,  1790. 

Courtesy  of  the  American  Antiquarian  Society. 


this  Nature  that  ever  was  exposed  in  Europe  or  America,"  its 
happy  proprietor  announced  in  the  American  Weekly  Mercury 
for  August  1-8,  1723,  inviting  the  good  people  of  Philadelphia 
to  see  it  "at  Mr.  Oliver  Galltry  Perriwig  Maker  in  the  Market 
Street  near  the  Old  Prison."  61 

Mr.  and  Mrs.  Dugee  delighted  many  an  audience  in  mid- 
eighteenth  century.  The  gentleman  member  of  this  team  could 
dance  on  the  stiff  rope  with  iron  fetters  on  his  feet;  his  lady 
could  hold  six  men  standing  on  her  ample  breast  while  lying 
stretched  out  between  two  chairs.  She  was  known  as  the  Female 
Samson  and  had  performed  her  unusual  feat  before  H.R.H. 
the  Princess  Dowager  of  Wales.52  Another  acrobatic  family 
brought  their  act  to  a  stirring  climax  with  the  star  performer 
"turning  round  with  swift  motion,  with  seven  or  eight  swords' 
points  at  her  eyes,  mouth  and  breast,  for  a  quarter  of  an  hour 
together,  to  the  admiration  of  all  that  behold  the  performance."  63 
In  Boston  a  Mr.  John  Childs  announced  his  plans  "to  fly  off  of 
Dr.  Cutler's  Church."  A  few  days  later  the  Gazette  stated  that 
"as  the  performances  led  many  People  from  their  Business,  he  is 
forbid  flying  any  more  in  the  Town."  64 

In  the  latter  part  of  the  century  there  were  also  exhibitions  of 
"philosophical  optical  machines,"  "magick  lanthorns,"  and  on  one 
occasion  "a  very  large  moving  Mashene  or  Land  and  Water 
Skip."  e5  After  the  French  Revolution  the  democratic  followers 
of  Mr.  Jefferson  applauded  heartily  the  affecting  spectacle  of  the 
guillotining  of  Louis  XVI—  "performed  to  the  life  by  an  invisible 
machine  without  any  perceivable  assistance."  It  reached  its 
climax,  as  advertised  for  a  performance  at  the  Sign  of  the  Black 
Bear  in  Philadelphia  on  November  21,  1794,  when  "the  head 
falls  in  a  basket,  and  the  lips,  which  are  first  red,  turn  blue."  66 

HUNTING  and  fishing,  the  sports  and  games  associated  with  farm 
festivals,  shooting  matches  and  horse-races,  country  dances,  the 
amusements  of  the  colonial  tavern  with  its  convivial  social  atmos- 


phere  and  pleasant  tippling— these  were  the  characteristic  forms 
of  recreation  for  the  colonial  yeomanry  during  the  eighteenth 
century.  The  sports  and  games  were  largely  those  which  their 
forefathers,  or  they  themselves,  had  once  enjoyed  in  England. 
The  scene  depicted  in  a  sixteenth-century  poem  addressed  to 
Queen  Elizabeth  would  not  have  been  altogether  unfamiliar  in 
eighteenth-century  America: 

Now,  when  their  dinner  once  is  done,  and  that  they  well  have  fed. 

To  play  they  go;  to  casting  of  the  stone,  to  runne,  or  shoote; 

To  tosse  the  light  and  windy  ball  aloft  with  hand  or  foote; 

Some  others  trie  their  skill  in  gonnes;  some  wrastell  all  the  day; 

And  some  to  schooles  of  fence  do  goe,  to  gaze  upon  the  play; 

Another  sort  there  is,  that  doe  not  love  abroad  to  roame, 

But,  for  to  passe  their  time  at  cardes  or  tables,  still  at  home.57 

Yet  in  many  instances  colonial  amusements  had  been  greatly 
modified  by  passage  overseas,  as  were  all  English  institutions 
transplanted  to  the  New  World.  The  training  days  and  election 
days,  with  their  democratic  atmosphere  and  general  participa- 
tion in  sports,  were  a  product  of  the  new  environment,  and  the 
barn-raisings  and  husking-bees  grew  out  of  the  special  circum- 
stances of  colonial  life.  The  universal  popularity  of  hunting,  with 
the  premium  placed  upon  markmanship  as  exhibited  at  shooting 
matches,  was  even  more  directly  a  frontier  phenomenon.  In 
their  outdoor  recreation  the  colonists  turned  from  masques  and 
wakes,  church-ales  and  morris-dances,  and  also  from  such  spec- 
tator sports  as  the  animal  baitings  of  eighteenth-century  Eng- 
land, to  the  more  homely  diversions  of  a  life  largely  shaped  by 
pioneer  conditions. 

For  a  time  the  Great  Awakening  exerted  a  repressive  influence, 
but  in  general  there  was  increasingly  less  evidence  in  the  eight- 
eenth century  of  that  puritanic  condemnation  of  all  amusements 
which  had  characterized  the  early  period  of  settlement.  Recrea- 
tion played  an  important  r61e  in  colonial  life,  and  it  was  taking 
on  distinctively  American  forms. 


gun,  no  cards,  no  flutes,  no  violins,  no  dress,  no  tobacco,  no 
laziness,  decoy  you  from  your  books/' * 

Writing  this  stern  injunction  in  his  diary,  a  young  man  starting 
life  in  Braintree,  Massachusetts,  in  the  1750's,  a  young  man  des- 
tined to  be  the  second  President  of  the  United  States,  was  guard- 
ing himself  against  what  he  considered  the  growing  laxity  of  the 
age  in  which  he  lived.  For  in  his  attitude  toward  amusements,  in 
his  discipline  of  himself,  John  Adams  was  very  much  the  Puritan. 
The  changes  that  had  come  over  the  habits  of  New  England,  and 
especially  of  what  had  become  the  New  England  aristocracy, 
were  a  cause  for  his  anxious,  although  probably  not  prayerful, 

He  was  highly  scornful  of  the  fashionable  vogue  for  frivolous 
and  idle  diversions.  "Let  others  waste  their  bloom  of  life  at  the 
card  or  billiard  table  among  rakes  and  fools."  Nor  could  he  tol- 
erate the  ball-room:  "I  never  knew  a  dancer  good  for  anything 
else."  He  did  not  go  so  far  as  to  "conclude  peremptorily  against 
sending  sons  or  daughters  to  dancing,  or  fencing,  or  music," 
but  he  declared  emphatically  that  he  would  rather  they  should 
be  "ignorant  of  them  all  than  fond  of  any  one  of  them."  2 

But  John  Adams  was  swimming  against  that  strong  tide  which 
we  have  already  seen  beating  against  the  crumbling  rock  of 
Puritan  intolerance.  The  simple  country  folk  of  New  England 
were  asserting  their  right  to  play,  the  more  wealthy  and  leisured 
class  was  even  less  restrained  by  earlier  prejudice.  Prosperity 
induced  a  more  liberal  attitude,  and  the  barriers  which  once 



had  blocked  almost  all  worldly  pleasures  were  being  let  down. 
An  advertisement  in  the  Boston  Gazette  in  1767  took  "Persons 
of  Fashion"  severely  to  task  for  their  unashamed  attendance  at 
plays,  balls,  assemblies,  and  card  parties.3  It  was  a  voice  crying 
in  the  wilderness  after  Puritan  ideals  of  conduct  which  no  longer 
commanded  popular  sanction. 

Thirty  years  after  John  Adams*  troubled  reflections,  changes 
along  still  more  liberal  lines  are  reflected  in  the  diary  of  John 
Quincy  Adams  describing  his  life  at  Newburyport.  He  too  suf- 
fered from  the  New  England  conscience.  "I  go  but  little  into 
company,"  reads  one  entry  which  might  well  have  appeared  in 
his  father's  diary,  "and  yet  I  am  not  industrious.  Indolence, 
indolence,  I  fear,  will  be  my  ruin."  Nevertheless  Mr.  Adams 
allowed  himself  many  pleasures  of  which  his  father  would  hardly 
have  approved. 

"Rather  dissipated  the  whole  day,"  we  find  him  writing  on  one 
occasion;  "could  not  study  with  the  proper  attention,  and  indeed 
gave  the  matter  up  in  the  afternoon.  At  about  seven  o'clock  we 
met  at  the  dancing  hall,  and  from  that  time  till  between  three  and 
four  in  the  morning  we  were  continually  dancing.  I  was  un- 
acquainted with  almost  all  the  company;  but  I  never  saw  a  col- 
lection of  ladies  where  there  was  comparatively  so  much  beauty. 
Two  or  three  gentlemen  got  rather  over  the  bay;  but  upon  the 
whole  the  proceedings  were  as  regular  and  agreeable  as  might 
be  expected."  4 

He  appears  to  have  enjoyed  female  society,  with  that  con- 
descending air  which  came  so  naturally  to  an  Adams.  One  day 
the  entire  afternoon  was  "employed  in  rigging  for  the  ball,"  and 
he  spent  the  better  part  of  the  evening  in  the  company  of  "a 
young  lady  with  a  beautiful  countenance,  an  elegant  person, 
and  (I  am  told)  an  amiable  mind."  He  called  on  her  the  next  day 
and  learned  to  play  quadrille.  But  it  was  also  about  this  time 
that  he  confided  to  his  diary  that  "there  are  very  few  young 
ladies  who  talk  and  yet  preserve  our  admiration."  5 

A  popular  fashion  of  that  day— as  of  a  good  many  days  since— 


obliged  young  women  at  an  evening  party  to  play  on  the  harpsi- 
chord, or  the  new  pianoforte,  and  to  sing  to  their  own  accom- 
paniment. This  bored  John  Quincy  Adams  extremely,  especially 
the  long  preliminaries  before  the  musician  would  allow  herself 
to  be  persuaded  to  perform.  "We  had  some  very  agreeable  and 
entertaining  conversation,"  he  wrote  once,  <tfbut  singing  soon  came 
on  the  carpet,  and  then  the  usual  nonsense  succeeded."  Parlor 
games—  for  they  too  have  a  hoary  antiquity—  were  even  worse. 
Mr.  Adams  found  himself  forced  to  play  "start;  what  is  it  like; 
cross  questions;  I  love  my  love  with  an  A."  One  evening  it  was 
pawns:  "A  number  of  pledges  were  given  all  'round,  and  kissing 
was  ,the  only  condition  upon  which  they  were  redeemed.  Ah! 
what  kissing!  "tis  a  profanation  of  one  of  the  most  endearing 
expressions  of  love."  6 

There  are  also  references  in  the  diary  to  sleigh  rides,  noisy 
walks,  serenades  until  three  in  the  morning,  evenings  of  whist. 
One  day  was  spent  in  reading,  shooting  birds,  and  flute-playing. 
An  amiable  young  man,  Mr.  Adams,  enjoying  what  had  come  to 
be  accepted  as  the  normal  pleasures  of  society  in  a  small  New 
England  town. 

IN  NEAR-BY  BOSTON,  social  life  was  at  once  gayer  and  more 
sophisticated  even  in  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  century.  If 
there  were  still  vestiges  of  Puritan  restraint,  they  were  not  very 
much  in  evidence—  less  so  than  in  the  next  century.  English 
visitors  found  the  atmosphere  little  different  from  that  of  other 
American  cities.  As  early  as  1740  one  of  them  was  both  surprised 
and  delighted  to  discover  the  Bostonians  not  quite  as  sad-visaged 
as  he  had  apparently  been  led  to  expect.  "Notwithstanding  plays 
and  such  like  diversions  do  not  obtain  here,"  he  wrote,  "they 
don't  seem  to  be  dispirited  nor  moped  for  want  of  them,  for 
both  the  ladies  and  gentlemen  dress  and  appear  as  gay,  in  com- 
mon, as  courtiers  in  England  on  a  coronation  or  birthday.  And 
the  ladies  here  visit,  drink  tea,  and  indulge  every  piece  of  gen- 


tility  to  the  height  o£  the  mode  and  neglect  the  affairs  of  their 
families  with  as  good  grace  as  the  finest  ladies  in  London." 7 

In  this  same  year  an  assembly  was  established.  For  all  of 
Puritanism's  disapproval  of  dancing,  teachers  had  been  available 
for  the  young  ladies  and  gentlemen  of  Boston  from  some  date 
prior  to  1716,  an  advertisement  in  the  News-Letter  of  that  year 
announcing  lessons  in  "all  sorts  of  fine  works,  as  Feather-work, 
Filigre,  and  Painting  on  Glass  . . .  and  Dancing  cheaper  than  ever 
was  taught  in  Boston."  8  An  assembly,  however,  was  an  innova- 
tion. Our  observer  noted  that  the  ladies  who  attended  it  "are 
looked  upon  to  be  none  of  the  nicest  in  regard  to  their  reputation; 
and  it  is  thought  it  will  soon  be  repressed,  for  it  is  much  taken 
notice  of  and  exploded  by  the  religious  and  sober  part  of  the 
people."9  He  overestimated  their  influence.  Four  years  later  it 
was  reported  that  "assemblies  of  the  gayer  sort  are  frequent  here, 
the  gentlemen  and  the  ladies  meeting  almost  every  week  at  con- 
certs of  music  and  balls." 10  In  mid-century  another  visitor  de- 
clared that  they  "consisted  of  50  Gentlemen  and  Ladies  and  those 
the  Best  Fashion  in  Town." 

The  record  of  the  visit  of  this  latter  traveler,  Captain  Francis 
Goelet,  gives  an  unusually  gay  picture  of  a  Boston  enlivened  both 
by  the  rise  of  a  mercantile  class  and  by  the  presence  of  a  royal 
governor  and  his  staff.  He  ferreted  out  its  amusements  with  com- 
mendable perseverance.  "Where  very  merry"  is  the  constant  re- 
frain of  the  accounts  of  his  lively  escapades— evenings  with  the 
ladies  at  whist  and  with  the  gentlemen  over  wine,  excursions  to 
country  taverns  for  dinner  and  dancing, 

"After  haveing  Dined  in  a  very  Elegant  manner  upon  Turtle, 
&,"  Captain  Goelet  reported  of  one  party  at  which  some  forty 
gentlemen  had  gathered  at  a  Mr.  Sheppards,  "Drank  about  the 
[sic]  toasts,  and  Sang  a  Number  of  Songs,  and  where  Exceed- 
ingly Merry  until  3  o'clock  in  the  morning,  from  whence  Went 
upon  the  Rake,  going  past  the  Common  in  Our  Way  Home. 
Surprised  a  company  of  Country  Young  Men  and  Women  with 
a  Violin  at  a  Tavern,  Danceing  and  Makeing  Merry,  upon  our 


Entering  the  House  they  Young  Women  Fled,  we  took  Pos- 
session of  the  Room,  having  the  Fiddler  and  the  Young  Men 
with  us  with  the  Keg  of  Sugared  Dram,  we  where  very  Very 
Merry,  from  thence  went  to  Mr.  Jacob  Wendells  where  we  were 
Obliged  to  Drink  Punch  and  Wine,  and  about  5  in  the  morning 
made  our  Excit  and  to  Bed."  al 

On  the  eve  of  the  Revolution  there  were  two  assemblies  in 
Boston,  one  for  those  with  Tory  leanings,  another  the  Liberty 
Assembly.  The  letters  of  a  young  lady  loyalist  declare  that  the 
former  was  reputed  to  be  the  best  in  America.12  There  are  fre- 
quent references  in  the  diary  of  John  Rowe,  friend  of  John 
Adams,  to  brilliant  balls  and  very  good  dancing.  An  account  in 
the  diary  of  William  Pynchon  of  the  festivities  in  Salem  during 
the  holiday  season  of  1783  seems  wholly  modern:13  Nothing 
could  afford  more  striking  illustration  of  how  times  had  changed 
since  Cotton  Mather  fumed  over  "wanton  Bacchanallian  Christ- 
mases,"  petulantly  rebuking  young  people  who  might  attend 
"a  Frolick,  a  revelling  Feast,  and  a  Ball,  which  discovers  their 

Card-playing,  especially  whist,  had  won  its  way  into  almost 
complete  favor.  Custom-house  records  of  imports  of  cards  from 
England  fully  substantiate  references  to  it  in  diaries  and  travel 
accounts.  The  inhabitants  of  Boston,"  the  Marquis  of  Chastellux 
wrote  just  after  the  Revolution,  "are  fond  of  high  play,  and  it  is 
fortunate  perhaps  that  the  war  happened  when  it  did,  to  mod- 
erate this  passion,  which  began  to  be  attended  with  dangerous 
consequences/' 14  The  Revolution  had  far-reaching  social  effects, 
but  it  is  surprising  to  find  this  French  observer  discovering  one 
of  them  to  have  been  the  curtailment  of  the  gambling  fever  in 
one-time  Puritan  Boston. 

Attempts  to  introduce  the  theatre  resulted  in  one  of  the  few 
victories  of  those  still  true  to  earlier  traditions.  It  was  not  until 
the  very  end  of  the  century  that  the  stage  was  officially  tolerated. 
When  some  English  actors  tried  to  put  on  a  play  in  1750,  there 
was  a  small  riot,  and  the  Massachusetts  General  Court  sternly 


reaffirmed  its  traditional  ban  on  "public  stage-plays,  interludes, 
and  other  theatrical  entertainments,  which  not  only  occasion 
great  and  unnecessary  expenses,  and  discourage  industry  and 
frugality,  but  likewise  tend  generally  to  increase  immorality, 
impiety,  and  a  contempt  for  religion." 15 

Now  and  then  something  very  closely  approaching  theatricals 
took  place  in  the  guise  of  public  readings  or  moral  lectures,  and 
amateur  performances  were  presented  quite  openly.  The  diary 
of  Nathaniel  Ames,  both  as  a  Harvard  student  and  a  resident  of 
Dedham,  has  frequent  references  both  to  attending  such  plays 
and  to  acting  in  them.  To  his  notice  of  a  performance  of  Tancred 
and  Sigismunda,  on  April  8,  1760,  he  adds,  **We  are  likely  to  be 
prosecuted." 16  But,  still  active  in  these  theatricals  twelve  years 
later,  he  reported  on  April  20,  1772,  that  "the  Farce  called  The 
Toy  Shop  was  acted , . .  before  a  numerous  audience  of  the  most 
respectable  Inhabitants  of  the  First  Parish  in  Dedham  both 
male  and  female."'17 

Concerts  took  the  place  of  the  theatre  to  a  certain  extent.  Vari- 
ous musical  instruments— virginals  and  spinets,  violins  and  bass 
viols,  flageolets,  flutes,  and  hautboys— were  being  imported  in 
1716  by  the  organist  of  King's  Chapel  in  Boston.  In  another 
fifteen  years,  to  judge  from  an  advertisement  in  the  News-Letter 
by  a  Mr.  Pelham,  who  was  also  a  dancing-master  and  tobac- 
conist, public  performances  were  being  given  with  an  admission 
fee  of  five  shillings.  Soon  thereafter  the  approval  of  the  select- 
men (although  they  were  careful  to  make  it  clear  they  did  not 
wish  to  establish  any  "president")  was  obtained  for  a  concert 
in  Faneuil  Hall.  By  the  1760*s  concerts  were  a  regular  feature 
of  the  social  calendar.18 

The  wealthy  merchants  who  had  taken  the  place  of  the  Saints 
in  the  social  hierarchy  of  New  England  fully  recognized  and 
thoroughly  enjoyed  the  pleasures  of  this  world.  Their  recrea- 
tional life  did  not  include  commercial  amusements,  nor  did  it 
extend  to  active  sports.  In  some  respects  it  was  typified  by  those 
impressive  dinners  which  everywhere  brought  colonial  society 


together—  tedious  except  for  the  gaiety  inspired  by  fine  old 
Madeira  and  good  New  England  rum.  But  its  limitations  were 
those  of  the  age.  Boston  in  tibe  latter  half  of  the  eighteenth  cen- 
tury may  still  have  had  that  atmosphere  of  sobriety  and  decorum 
which  has  generally  distinguished  it,  but  its  citizens  knew  how 
to  amuse  themselves. 

THE  SOCIAL  LIFE  of  the  colonial  aristocracy  in  the  middle  colonies 
was  seen  at  its  gayest  in  New  York.  Philadelphia  was  noted  for 
its  dancing  assembly,  its  exclusive  fishing  parties  on  the  Schuyl- 
kfll,  and  the  epicurean  banquets  given  by  its  prosperous  citizens. 
It  had  its  concerts  and  its  theatre—also  its  horse-races  and  its 
cock-fights  for  all  the  disapproval  of  the  Quakers.  But  the  lively 
little  town  of  some  twelve  thousand  inhabitants  at  the  lower  end 
of  Manhattan  Island  was  by  mid-century  a  pressing  rival  of 
Boston  and  Philadelphia  "in  its  fine  buildings,  its  opulence,  and 
extensive  commerce,"19  and  the  superior  of  either  Puritan  or 
Quaker  capital  in  amusements  and  entertainment.  Trade  with  the 
West  Indies,  supplemented  by  the  important  side-line  of  priva- 
teering against  the  French,  had  created  a  class  of  pleasure-loving 
citizens  of  both  wealth  and  leisure  whose  social  life  was  given  a 
further  fillip  by  the  presence  of  tihe  officers  of  the  English 

They  might  best  be  seen,  these  leaders  of  colonial  society,  as 
they  paraded  of  a  late  afternoon  in  the  fashionable  district  about 
Hanover  Square,  dressed  in  the  latest  London  mode.  The  gentle- 
men were  resplendent  in  powdered  wigs,  varicolored  coats,  lace 
and  ruffles,  the  young  dandies  wearing  silver-hilted  small  swords 
and  ostentatiously  taking  snuff  from  jeweled  boxes.  New  fashions 
in  hooped  petticoats,  vivid  creations  in  bright  scarlet  or  glistening 
green,  featured  the  dress  of  the  women.  "One  cannot  but  be 
troubled,"  wrote  a  correspondent  of  the  New  York  Mercury,  "to 
see  so  many  well  shaped  virgins  bloated  up,  and  waddling  up 
and  down  like  big  bodied  women."  20  Sedan-chairs  were  carried 


through  the  streets  by  Negro  slaves.  Occasionally  Lieutenant- 
Governor  de  Lancey  drove  by  in  his  gilded  chariot,  drawn  by 
four  white  horses,  or  Abraham  de  Peyster  in  his  silver-trimmed 
coach,  with  liveried  outriders  in  blue  coats,  yellow  capes,  and 
yellow  small-clothes.21  There  were  marked  social  distinctions  in 
New  York,  as  there  were  throughout  the  colonies.  Luxurious  dis- 
play had  an  important  r61e  in  the  world  of  fashion. 

The  carriages  of  the  gentry  were  usually  bound  for  their 
estates  out  on  the  Bowery  road  or  even  farther  afield  in  Harlem, 
and  excursions  by  chair  or  chaise  to  near-by  country  taverns  had 
a  great  vogue  among  the  socially  elect.  Ladies  and  gentlemen 
were  assured  of  being  entertained  at  these  resorts  "in  the  gen- 
teelest  manner,"  with  rich  foods,  imported  wines,  and  music. 
Turtle  feasts,  the  terrapin  washed  down  with  well-aged  Madeira, 
and  fashionable  picnics  were  held  on  the  banks  of  the  East 

"Thirty  or  forty  gentlemen  and  ladies,"  a  traveler  in  1760 
noted,  "meet  and  dine  together,  drink  tea  in  the  afternoon,  fish 
and  amuse  themselves  till  evening,  and  then  return  home  in 
Italian  chaises ...  a  gentleman  and  lady  in  each  chaise.  In  the 
way  there  is  a  bridge,  about  three  miles  distant  from  New  York, 
which  you  always  pass  over  as  you  return,  called  the  Kissing 
Bridge,  where  it  is  part  of  the  etiquette  to  salute  the  lady  who 
has  put  herself  under  your  protection."  22  It  may  be  added  that 
the  visitor,  Andrew  Burnaby,  found  the  ladies  of  New  York 
handsome  and  agreeable. 

"Their  Diversions  in  the  Winter,"  Madame  Sarah  Knight  com- 
mented, "is  Riding  in  Sleys  about  three  or  four  Miles  out  of 
Town,  where  they  have  Houses  of  entertainment  at  a  place  called 
the  Bowery;  and  some  go  to  friends  houses  who  handsomely 
treat  them. ...  I  believe  we  mett  50  or  60  slays  that  day— they  fly 
with  great  swiftness  and  some  are  so  furious  that  theyle  turn  out 
of  the  path  for  none  except  a  Loaden  Cart." 23  Describing  one 
such  party  in  1768,  Alexander  Macraby  says  that  the  sleighs  were 
preceded  by  fiddlers  on  horseback,  and  the  company  drove  to  a 


country  inn  "where  we  danced,  sung,  romped  and  eat  and  drank 
and  kicked  away  care  from  morning  till  night." 24 

Toward  the  close  of  the  century  Long  Island  was  drawing  an 
increasing  number  of  pleasure-seekers,  the  ferries  being  busy 
every  pleasant  summer  afternoon.  Hempstead  and  Salisbury 
Plains  attracted  fashionable  crowds  to  the  horse-races  which  had 
been  held  there  every  season  since  1665.  "Upwards  of  seventy 
chairs  and  chaises  were  carried  over  the  Brooklyn  Ferry  the  day 
before,"  the  Weekly  Post-Boy  reported  after  one  race  meeting, 
"besides  a  far  greater  number  of  horses."  25  In  the  years  immedi- 
ately preceding  the  Revolution  the  stables  of  imported  thorough- 
breds built  up  by  a  number  of  wealthy  New  Yorkers  gave  a  wide 
fame  to  Salisbury.  "These  plains  were  celebrated  for  their  races 
throughout  all  the  Colonies  and  even  in  England,"  a  London  race 
book  stated  in  1776.  "They  were  held  twice  a  year  for  a  silver 
cup,  to  which  the  gentry  of  New  England  and  New  York  re- 
sorted." 26 

Other  sports  enjoyed  at  least  occasionally  by  wealthy  New 
Yorkers  are  indicated  by  contemporary  references  to  pleasure 
boats,  shooting  matches,  cork  swimming-jackets,  "gouff  clubs," 
and  (as  advertised  by  James  Rivington  in  1766)  "battledores  and 
shuttlecocks,  cricket-balls,  pillets,  best  racquets  for  tennis  and 
fives. . . ." 27  Cock-fighting,  to  say  nothing  of  animal  baitings,  had 
its  devotees  among  the  aristocracy  as  well  as  among  the  common 
people.  The  diary  of  the  chaplain  of  the  English  troops  makes 
frequent  references  to  the  mains  he  attended:  "Prayers,  visited 
at  night  ye  fighting  cocks,"  or  "I  was  late  at  ye  fighting  cocks."  2S 

Balls  and  assemblies,  card  parties  and  evening  frolics,  were 
greatly  enjoyed.  The  diary  of  Elisha  Parker  in  1747  records  his 
being  invited  to  both  the  Old  Assembly  and  the  Young  Assem- 
bly.29 The  newspapers  always  noted  the  great  occasion  of  tihe 
Governor's  Ball.  "The  night  was  passed  in  the  general  satisfac- 
tion," stated  one  such  report,  "without  the  least  incivility  offered 
or  offence  taken  by  any  one,  which  is  scarce  to  be  said  on  the 
like  occasions."  In  1762  sixty-nine  couples  attended  a  lavish  ball 


given  by  Sir  Jeffrey  Amherst  which  was  adjudged  the  "most  ele- 
gant ever  seen  in  America." 30 

William  Livingstone,  later  to  be  governor  of  New  Jersey,  has 
left  a  record  of  waffle  frolics.  When  one  such  entertainment 
included  cards  and  a  magnificent  supper,  he  expressed  his  sur- 
prise that  so  luxurious  a  feast  should  be  given  this  humble  name. 
The  evening  concluded,  he  further  noted  somewhat  cryptically, 
with  "ten  sunburnt  virgins  lately  come  -from  Columbia's  New- 
foundland, besides  a  play  of  my  own  invention . . .  kissing  con- 
stitutes a  great  part  of  its  entertainment." S1 

New  York  had  its  concerts.  One  for  the  benefit  of  Mr.  Pachel- 
bel,  harpsichord  player,  was  advertised  in  1735;  weekly  per- 
formances, with  both  professional  and  amateur  instrumentalists, 
were  being  given  in  the  1760's,  and  in  the  period  just  before  the 
Revolution  there  was  a  great  deal  of  musical  activity.  It  is  inter- 
esting to  trace  through  these  days  the  career  of  Mr.  Herman 
Zedwitz,  successively  concertmaster  at  "Hull's  Assembly  Rooms, 
at  the  Sign  of  the  Golden  Spade,"  chimney-sweep,  and  a  traitor 
to  the  patriot  cause.32  Band  music  was  played  at  the  Vauxhall 
Gardens  kept  by  Samuel  Francis,  later  steward  of  General  Wash- 
ington, and  open-air  concerts  were  given  three  times  a  week  at 
the  garden  of  the  Kings  Arms. 

A  more  distinctive  feature  of  the  city's  recreational  life  was 
the  theatre.  New  York  gave  an  early  welcome  to  the  stage, 
although  just  how  early  cannot  be  definitely  stated.  Its  historians 
have  had  an  agreeable  time  progressively  moving  farther  and 
farther  back  the  probable  occasion  of  the  first  American  theat- 
rical performance.  They  may  yet  arrive  at  the  landing  of  the 
Jamestown  settlers  aboard  the  Susan  Constant.  For  it  was  a 
practice  early  in  the  seventeenth  century  for  sailors  aboard  Eng- 
lish ships  to  hold  amateur  theatricals,  and  as  early  as  1607  a 
Captain  Keeling,  of  the  East  India  Company,  reported  a  showing 
of  Hamlet  aboard  the  ship  Dragon** 

However  that  may  be,  there  is  definite  evidence  of  a  certain 
Richard  Hunter's  petitioning  the  legislature  of  New  York  for  a 


license  to  act  plays  about  1699;  the  English  actor  Anthony  Aston 
(arriving  "full  of  Lice,  Shame,  Poverty,  Nakedness,  and  Hun- 
ger") has  left  on  record  that  he  was  playing  in  the  colonies  in 
1703-04;  there  is  notice  of  a  performance  of  The  Recruiting  Of- 
ficer in  New  York  on  December  6,  1732;  and  seven  years  later 
The  Adventures  of  Harlequin  and  Scaramouche,  or  The  Spaniard 
Trick'd,  was  staged  at  Mr.  Holt's  Long  Room  with  a  prologue 
beginning  "This  gen'rous  Town  which  nurs'd  our  infant  Stage." 34 
If  no  one  of  these  isolated  references  to  the  stage  is  accepted  as 
marking  the  real  beginning  of  New  York's  theatrical  history,  the 
New  Yorfc  Gazette  or  Weekly  Post-Boy  records  the  brief  and 
somewhat  inglorious  season  ("they  met  with  small  encourage- 
ment'*) of  a  company  of  comedians,  believed  to  have  been  a 
troupe  headed  by  Thomas  Kean  and  Walter  Murray,  which 
moved  upon  New  York  from  Philadelphia  and  gave  a  series  of 
plays  in  the  winter  of  1749-50.35 

Three  years  later  a  band  of  professional  actors  headed  by 
Mr.  and  Mrs.  Lewis  HaUam  arrived.  They  had  reached  this 
country  in  1752  by  way  of  the  West  Indies  and  had  already 
acted  for  almost  a  year  in  the  South,  but  their  reception  in  New 
York  was  only  moderately  enthusiastic.  They  soon  returned  to 
the  richer  harvests  to  be  gleaned  in  Jamaica.  There  Lewis  Hallam 
died,  his  widow  married  David  Douglass,  and  soon  afterwards 
the  reorganized  troupe,  now  known  as  the  American  Company 
of  Comedians,  made  a  second  and  more  successful  venture  to 
the  American  mainland.  From  1758  until  the  Revolution  forced 
their  temporary  withdrawal,  they  played  before  colonial  audi- 
ences from  Albany  to  Charleston. 

New  York's  first  permanent  theatre  was  the  John  Street,  opened 
in  1767.  It  was  a  small  house,  seating  perhaps  three  hundred, 
and  drew  its  audiences  from  both  the  aristocracy  and  the  less 
polite  members  of  society.  The  presence  of  the  former  is  attested 
by  advertisements  warning  patrons  to  send  their  servants  by 
four  in  the  afternoon  to  reserve  their  places  for  them,  and  to  set 
their  carriages  down  with  the  horses'  heads  facing  up  John 

New-York.  November  «» 

By  a  Company  of   COMEDIANS, 

At  the  New-Theatre,  in  Naffau-Streef* 

This  Evening,  being  the  1  2th  of  November^  will  be  prdented, 

An  Hiflorical  P£y9  call'd, 



The  Diftrefies  and  Death  of  King  £fe*ry  the  Vlth  ;  the  artful 
Acquisition  of  the  Crown  by  Crook-facPd  Richard  ;  the  Murder 
of  the  euro  young  Princes  in  the  Tower  ;  and  the  memorable 
Battle  of  Bo/wortb-Fzeld;  being  the  laft  that  was  fought  between 
theHoufes  of  York  and  Lancafter* 

by  Mr. 

by  Mr. 

Prince  f&oarJ+        \*v  Ma 

Dukeofror*,  by  Mi&ct  A. 

Earl  of  JZwAwtf*/,    by  Mr.  Oarkfm* 

Duke  of£*rtttg&ia<,  by  Mr. 

Duke  of  Ntrfofc*     by  Mr. 

by  Mr. 

by  Mr. 

by  Mr. 


by  Mrs. 

Duchcft  of  r«r*,      by  Mn.  Jfi^y. 

To  which  will  be  tdded> 
A    Ballad    FARCE      call'd, 

The   DErrL    TO   P  ^4 

Mr.  MtK*. 


by  Mr. 

•Lady  tjorjeruff*  by  Mrs.  Akeck. 

JVW/r  by  Mrs.  f 

JLtWfff  by 

Zj«y»  by 

'.-  BOX,  6s/  PIT,  4/  GALLERY,  syC 
No  Peiibns  whatever  to  be  admitted  behind  the  Scenes. 

A^  A.     G&ut&ncn  and  Ladies  that  cbufe  3ickets9  may  bave  them. 

at  Mr*  Parker*/  tnid  Mr.  GaincV  Prixting-Officff* 

Money    will  be   taken  ac  the    DOOR. 

To  begin   at   6  o'clock. 

Playbill  of  the  Hallam  Company  of  Comedians 
November  12,  1753,  in  their  first  New  York  season. 


Street;  that  of  the  latter  by  notices  requesting  the  gallery  gods 
not  to  throw  eggs  on  the  stage.86  Admission  ranged  from  three  to 
eight  shillings,  however,  and  the  colonial  theatre  was  primarily 
class  entertainment.  On  one  occasion  a  mob  broke  in  on  a 
performance  of  The  Twin  Rivals  and  sent  the  audience  flying 
as  a  protest  against  such  extravagance  while  there  was  serious 
distress  among  the  poor.37 

It  was  at  this  theatre  that  the  first  American  comedy  to  be 
regularly  produced,  Royall  Tyler's  The  Contrast,  was  staged  on 
April  16,  1787.  One  of  its  characters,  prototype  of  the  country 
yokel  in  the  big  city,  describes  the  playhouse.  "As  I  was  going 
about  here  and  there,  to  and  again,  to  find  it,"  Jonathan  says, 
"I  saw  a  great  crowd  of  folks  going  into  a  long  entry  that  had 
lanterns  over  the  door. ...  So  I  went  right  in,  and  they  showed 
me  away,  clean  up  to  the  garret,  just  like  a  meeting-house  gal- 
lery. And  so  I  saw  a  power  of  topping  folks,  all  sitting  around 
in  little  cabins,  just  like  father's  corn  cribs;  and  there  was  such  a 
squeaking  with  the  fiddlers,  and  such  a  tarnel  blaze  with  the 
Alights,  my  head  was  near  turned." 8S 

Jonathan  was  none  too  comfortable  in  the  gallery,  but  accom- 
modations for  "the  power  of  topping  folks'*  were  not  much 
better.  The  two  little  rows  of  boxes  and  the  pit  were  furnished 
only  with  hard  wooden  benches.  Heat  for  the  cold  winter  nights 
came  from  a  large  stove  in  the  foyer,  but  the  wiser  members  of 
the  audience  brought  their  own  foot-warmers.  Candles  provided 
the  lighting,  often  dripping  on  the  powdered  wigs  of  those  in 
the  boxes.  Although  the  audience  were  supposed  to  keep  their 
seats,  the  management  repeatedly  complained  in  public  notices 
that  "gentlemen  crowd  the  stage  and  very  much  interrupt  the 

Staging  and  scenery  were  primitive.  When  the  green  curtain 
was  raised  on  the  sharp  blast  of  a  whistle,  the  audience  saw  a 
few  painted  flats  and  a  backcloth.  Stagehands  were  liable  to 
appear  at  any  moment  to  shift  the  flats  or  to  snuff  a  candle  foot- 
light—if  one  of  the  actors  had  not  in  the  meantime  broken  off 


his  lines  to  do  it  himself.  The  performance  was  Elizabethan  in 
its  simplicity,  but  colonial  audiences  were  not  over-critical. 

The  play  was  the  thing.  The  American  Company  of  Comedians 
included  in  its  repertoire  not  only  all  the  Shakespearean  plays, 
but  the  best  of  Elizabethan  and  Restoration  comedies  and  popu- 
lar ballad-operas.  Its  principal  offerings  were  tempered  by  farces 
played  as  afterpieces.  At  the  John  Street  Theatre  the  social 
world  of  colonial  New  York  saw  Richard  the  Third,  The  Beggars 
Opera,  and  Venice  Preserved;  Hamlet,  The  Beaux  Strategem, 
and  She  Stoops  to  Conquer;  Flora,  or  Hob  in  the  Well,  The 
Mock  Doctor,  and  High  Life  Below  Stairs.39 

IN  THE  SOUTHERN  colonies,  social  life  was  even  more  varied  and 
colorful  than  in  the  prosperous  cities  of  the  North.  The  planters 
rode  to  hounds  through  the  lush  countryside  of  Virginia  and 
Maryland  in  blue  coats  and  scarlet  waistcoats;  they  went  to 
horse-races  and  cock-fights,  betting  heavily  in  so  many  pounds 
of  tobacco  or  so  many  slaves;  and  they  flocked  to  Williamsburg, 
Annapolis,  or  Charleston  for  the  most  festive  social  seasons  any- 
where in  America.  Washington  Irving,  in  his  Life  of  George 
Washington,  describes  how  the  young  ladies  of  Maryland  rode 
to  the  assembly  at  Annapolis  in  scarlet  riding-habits  thrown 
over  their  satin  ball  dresses,  kerchiefs  drawn  about  the  great 
masses  of  their  puffed  and  pomaded  hair,  and  after  dancing 
through  the  night  rode  home  again  in  the  shadowy  dawn. 

Through  their  immense  holdings  of  lands  and  slaves,  the  plant- 
ers had  acquired  wealth  which  set  them  off  completely  from 
the  yeomanry  of  tidewater  and  the  small  farmers  of  the  back 
country.  Tobacco,  rice,  and  indigo  had  been  transmuted  into 
riches,  and  the  southern  aristocracy  seized  upon  every  possible 
opportunity  for  diversion.  They  were  not  bothered  by  the  puri- 
tanic soul-searching  which  sometimes  still  inhibited  New  Eng- 
land's wealthy  merchants.  They  did  not  care  whether  their 
amusements  were  inspired  by  God  or  the  Devil. 


"Indolent,  easy  and  good-natured/*  was  Andrew  Burnaby's 
characterization;  ^'extremely  fond  of  society  and  much  given  to 
convivial  pleasures."  40  Somewhat  later  the  Marquis  of  Chastellux 
caustically  declared  that  the  young  men  were  all  gamblers,  cock- 
fighters,  and  horse  jockeys— "to  hear  them  converse,  you  would 
imagine  that  the  grand  point  of  all  science  was  properly  to  fix 
a  gaff  and  touch  with  dexterity  the  tail  of  a  cock  while  in  com- 
bat." 41  The  planters  were  not  the  cavaliers  of  southern  legend, 
but  they  lived  the  life  of  the  English  aristocrat  on  their  great 
plantations,  the  life  of  the  fox-hunting  country  squire,  just  as 
fully  as  circumstances  would  permit.  It  was  the  most  leisured 
and  pleasure-loving  society  America  has  ever  known— and  it 
produced  some  of  the  country's  greatest  political  leaders. 

One  of  the  most  engaging  descriptions  of  this  life  is  con- 
tained in  the  diary  of  Philip  Vickers  Fithian,  a  young  northerner 
who  acted  as  tutor  for  the  children  of  Colonel  Robert  Carter  at 
Nomini  Hall,  in  Westmoreland  County,  Virginia.  A  serious- 
minded  young  man  (he  had  studied  for  the  Presbyterian  min- 
istry at  Nassau  Hall),  Fithian  was  somewhat  disturbed  by  the 
gaiety  of  the  society  into  which  he  was  thrown— "the  Balls,  the 
Fish-Feasts,  the  Dancing-Schools,  the  Christenings,  the  Cock- 
fights, the  Horse-Races. . .  "  42  He  could  not  approve  an  attitude 
which  placed  so  high  a  premium  on  pleasure  and  amusement 
that  even  the  Sabbath  was  largely  given  over  to  diversions.  It 
troubled  his  Calvinistic  conscience  that  every  one  should  look 
festive  and  cheerful  on  the  Lord's  Day.43 

His  diary  tells  of  race  meets  at  Richmond  where  the  stakes  on 
a  single  race  were  £500,  and  of  cock-fights  which  created  the 
wildest  excitement  both  in  the  Great  House  and  in  the  slave 
quarters.  It  records  a  gala  occasion  with  boat-racing  on  the 
Rappahannock,  and  afternoons  with  the  gentry  bowling  on  the 
green  at  Nomini  Hall.  The  generous  southern  hospitality  of  Colo- 
nel Carter,  guests  being  always  present  at  a  table  luxuriously 
supplied  with  all  the  varied  produce  of  the  plantation  and  a 
wealth  of  wines  and  liquors,  greatly  impressed  him.  And  it 


seemed  that  the  women  o£  the  South  rode  about  as  freely  as  the 
men  in  their  visits  to  neighboring  plantations.  "Almost  every 
Lady  wears  a  red  Cloak,"  Fithian  reported  wonderingly,  "and 
when  they  ride  out  they  tye  a  red  handkerchief  over  their  Head 
and  face."  44  He  thought  at  first  that  the  toothache  was  epidemic 
throughout  Virginia. 

Nomini  Hall  was  a  musical  household.  One  day  Fithian  came 
home  about  candle-light  to  find  "Mrs.  Carter  in  the  yard  seeing 
to  the  Roosting  of  her  Poultry;  and  the  Colonel  in  the  Parlour 
timing  his  guitar."  There  were  many  evenings  when  the  Colo- 
nel was  so  disposed— music  was  his  "darling  amusement"— and 
the  tutor  took  part  in  many  informal  concerts.  Colonel  Carter 
had  a  harpsichord,  a  forte-piano,  a  German  flute,  and  a  har- 
monica. The  latter,  of  course,  was  not  our  modern  mouth-organ. 
It  was  an  instrument  invented  by  "Mr.  B.  Franklin  of  Phila- 
delphia . . .  being  the  musical  glasses  without  water."  Fithian 
declared  that  its  virtues  "far  exceed  even  the  swelling  Organ."  45 

Of  all  the  diversions  of  the  plantation,  the  one  that  most  in- 
trigued this  conscientious  northerner  with  his  Presbyterian  scruples 
was  the  dancing.  There  were  not  only  regular  classes  for  the  chil- 
dren, Mr.  Christian  coming  over  to  Nomini  Hall  after  giving  his 
lessons  at  Mount  Vernon,  but  frequent  formal  dances.  During  the 
Christmas  holidays  there  was  talk  of  little  else  than  "the  balls, 
the  Fox-hunts,  and  fine  entertainments." 

"The  assembly  was  remarkably  numerous;  beyond  my  expec- 
tations, and  exceedingly  polite  in  general,"  Fithian  wrote  of  one 
affair  to  which  he  was  somewhat  unwillingly  taken.  But  while 
not  even  Mr.  Christian  could  persuade  him  to  take  up  dancing 
himself,  he  greatly  enjoyed  watching  it,  especially  the  jigs,  reels, 
and  country  dances— the  company  "moving  easily,  to  the  sound 
of  well-performed  Music,  and  with  perfect  regularity,  tho'  ap- 
parently in  the  utmost  disorder."  He  would  spend  most  of  the 
evening  wandering  about,  looking  in  occasionally  at  the  people 
in  the  drawing-rooms  drinking  and  playing  cards.  Little  escaped 
his  observant  eye:  "There  was  A  short  pretty  stump  of  a  girl.  A 


young  Spark  seemed  to  be  fond  of  her;  She  seemed  to  be  fond 
of  him;  they  both  were  fond,  &  the  Company  saw  it.  ...  The  in- 
sinuating Rogue  waited  on  her  home,  in  close  Hugg  too,  the 
moment  he  left  the  Bail-Room."  46 

On  this  first  occasion  Fithian  at  length  became  anxious  to  get 
away,  yet  he  could  not  help  being  drawn  back  again  and  again. 
"The  ladies  were  dressed  Gay  and  splendid,  &  when  dancing, 
their  skirts  &  Brocades  rustled  and  trailed  behind  them!'*  With 
what  seems  to  have  been  a  somewhat  un-Presbyterian  eye,  he 
noticed  that  Miss  Betsy  Lee  was  "pinched  up  rather  too  near"  in 
a  long  pair  of  the  new-fashioned  stays  which  permitted  "scarce 
any  view  at  all  of  the  Ladies  Snowy  Bosoms/7  and  described 
Miss  PrisciHa  Hale  as  "a  slim,  puny  silent  Virgin.  ...  I  dare  say 
from  her  Character  that  her  Modesty  is  invincible."  He  had  left 
his  own  love  in  the  North.  It  was  she  whom  he  always  had  in 
mind  when  the  gentlemen  drank  their  toasts  to  the  ladies  of 
Nomini  Hall.  So  after  a  time  Fithian  wandered  out  to  walk  alone 
through  the  woods.  He  sadly  took  out  his  penknife  and  "carved 
Laura's  much  admired  Name  upon  a  smooth  beautiful  Beech 

THE  FIELD  sports  which  were  such  a  distinctive  feature  of  plan- 
tation life  are  illustrated  in  a  somewhat  better  known  diary,  that 
of  George  Washington.  This  typical  southern  gentleman  was  a 
great  rider  and  huntsman.  He  was  proud  of  his  horses,  his  pack 
of  hounds  (Pilot,  Musick,  Countess,  Truelove),  and  his  imported 
fowling-pieces.  His  riding-frocks,  waistcoats  of  superfine  scarlet 
cloth  and  gold  lace,  his  elegant  buckskin  breeches,  were  all  spe- 
cially made  in  England.  Diary  entries  under  the  heading  "Where 
and  how  my  time  is  spent"  bear  frequent  witness  to  the  days  he 
*went  a  ducking"  or  "a  Fox  hunting  in  the  Neck."  During  Jan- 
uary and  February,  1769,  for  example,  he  rode  to  hounds  fifteen 
times,  one  week  on  six  successive  days.48 
Washington  was  equally  enthusiastic  about  social  activities, 


especially  dancing.  His  diaiy  usually  records  attendance  at  the 
balls  and  assemblies  at  Williamsburg,  Annapolis,  or  Alexandria 
with  the  brief  note,  'Went  to  the  play  and  Ball.**  On  February  5, 
1760,  there  was  an  occasion  which  inspired  more  extensive  com- 
ment: 'Went  to  the  Ball  at  Alexandria,  where  Musick  and  Danc- 
ing was  the  chief  Entertainment.  However  in  a  convenient  Room 
detached  for  the  purpose  abounded  great  plenty  of  Bread  and 
Butter,  some  biscuits  with  Tea,  and  Coffee  which  the  Drinker 
of  could  not  Distinguish  from  Hot  water  sweetened.  Be  it  remem- 
bered that  pocket  handkerchiefs  served  the  purpose  of  Table 
Cloths  &  Napkins  and  that  no  apologies  were  made  for  either. 
I  shall  therefore  distinguish  this  Ball  by  the  Stile  and  Title  of 
the  Bread  and  Butter  Ball/* 49 

The  proprietor  of  Mount  Vernon,  whose  innate  dignity  has 
been  translated  in  terms  of  dull  stuffiness  for  so  many  gener- 
ations of  schoolboys,  quite  evidently  preferred  the  wines  more 
generally  served  at  colonial  assemblies  to  the  pallid  refreshment 
of  weak  coffee.  But  the  dancing  itself  was  the  lure  that  drew  him 
even  to  bread-and-butter  balls.  One  wonders,  recalling  the 
marked  contrast  in  his  attitude  toward  social  pleasures  to  that  of 
the  man  who  was  to  be  so  closely  associated  with  him  in  later 
years,  at  what  point  John  Adams  may  have  finally  admitted  that 
there  might  be  a  good  dancer  who  was  also  good  for  something 

Another  Virginia-  planter  who  thoroughly  enjoyed  the  various 
aspects  of  the  South's  recreational  life  was  Thomas  Jefferson. 
"From  the  circumstances  of  my  position,'*  he  once  wrote,  "I  was 
often  thrown  into  the  society  of  horse-racers,  card-players,  fox 
hunters. ..."  It  was  not  said  in  disparagement.  He  thoroughly 
enjoyed  the  victory  of  a  favorite  horse  and  being  in  at  the  death 
of  a  fox.  Even  greater  was  his  fondness  for  music— "the  favorite 
passion  of  my  soul"— and  there  were  few  more  zealous  dancers  at 
the  fashionable  balls  in  the  Raleigh  Tavern  at  Williamsburg.  In 
his  young  days  Jefferson  once  wrote  a  friend  of  his  conception 
of  the  ideal  life:  "Get  a  pole  chair  and  a  pair  of  keen  horses, 


practice  the  law  in  the  same  courts,  and  drive  about  to  all  the 
dances  in  the  country  together." 50 

The  colonial  South  had  another  amusement  in  the  theatre.  It 
was  there  the  Hallams  had  first  landed,  and  nowhere  did  the 
American  Company  of  Comedians  find  more  appreciative  au- 
diences. It  was  a  part  of  the  English  tradition  this  aristocratic 
society  encouraged.  Plays  were  staged  not  only  at  Williamsburg, 
Annapolis,  and  Charleston,  but  at  Hobb's  Hole,  Port  Tobacco, 
Upper  Maxlborough,  and  other  little  villages  where  the  near-by 
planters  could  congregate.  As  the  players  moved  on  from  town 
to  town,  many  of  the  audience  followed  them.  In  the  season  of 
1771-72  we  find  Washington  attending  the  play  four  times  at 
Annapolis  and  four  times  at  Williamsburg  during  the  fall,  and 
then  seven  times  at  Williamsburg  and  four  times  at  Annapolis  in 
the  spring.  The  total  cost  of  his  tickets  for  these  performances 
of  the  Hallams  (as  well  as  a  waxworks  exhibition  and  a  puppet- 
show)  came  to  £17.51 

Amateur  theatricals  are  recorded  in  Virginia  as  early  as  1665, 
when  a  play  ^commonly  called  Ye  Bare  and  Ye  Cubb"  was  put 
on;  Williamsburg  had  a  theatre  in  1716,  perhaps  the  first  in  Amer- 
ica, and  there  is  notice  of  a  performance  of  Otway's  Orphan  in 
Charleston,  South  Carolina,  in  1735.  The  Murray  and  Kean 
troupe  toured  the  South  after  playing  in  Philadelphia  and  New 
York.  But  it  was  the  Hallams,  giving  their  first  American  per- 
formance at  Williamsburg  on  September  15, 1752,  that  introduced 
the  theatre  to  the  South,  as  well  as  to  the  North,  on  something 
like  a  permanent  basis.52 

Advance  notices  in  the  Virginia  Gazette  told  of  the  Hallams* 
pending  performances.  Scenes,  costumes,  and  decorations  were 
entirely  new,  giving  every  assurance  that  the  audience  could 
count  "on  being  entertained  in  as  polite  a  Manner  as  at  the 
Theatre  in  London."  The  Merchant  of  Venice  was  played  first, 
and  a  few  days  later  Othello.  Governor  Dinwiddie  took  the  royal 
family  of  the  Cherokee  Nation  to  the  latter  performance.  So  con- 
vincing was  the  players*  acting  that  the  chieftain's  consort  could 


hardly  be  restrained  from  ordering  "some  about  her  to  go  and 
prevent  their  lolling  one  another."  5S 

Possibly  the  most  brilliant  dramatic  season  of  the  American 
Company  was  that  at  Charleston,  the  social  and  cultural  capital 
of  the  South,  in  1773-74.  "All  seems  at  present  to  be  trade,  riches, 
magnificence  and  great  state  in  everything;  much  gaiety  and 
dissipation,**  a  northern  visitor,  Josiah  Quincy,  Jr.,  wrote  that 
year.54  And  well  he  might.  The  visiting  players  gave  over  a 
hundred  performances,  their  repertoire  including  no  less  than 
fifty-eight  different  offerings.  Eleven  of  Shakespeare's  plays  were 
staged,  eight  of  Garrick's,  and  almost  all  the  popular  ballad- 
operas  of  the  day.55 

THE  CENTERS  of  society—  Boston,  New  York,  Philadelphia,  Wil- 
liamsburg,  and  Charleston—  were  so  widely  separated  that  there 
was  little  contact  among  the  aristocracy  of  the  different  colonies. 
The  lack  of  roads,  and  the  miserable  condition  of  such  roads  as 
there  were,  constituted  a  barrier  to  pleasure  travel  which  even 
wealth  could  not  easily  overcome.  One  might  journey  by  boat,  at 
considerable  expense,  but  by  coach  or  stage  it  was  an  experience 
not  many  people  willingly  undertook.  In  few  respects  have  condi- 
tions of  life  so  greatly  changed  as  in  the  broadening  of  our 
horizons  through  modern  means  of  transportation. 

Nevertheless  there  were  occasional  instances  of  touring  the 
colonies,  and  for  such  hardy  travelers,  with  the  proper  letters  of 
introduction,  an  entree  into  society  was  provided  through  the 
various  social  and  sporting  clubs  found  in  every  city.  In  the  next 
century  Alexis  de  Tocqueville  was  to  note  an  unusual  peculiarity 
of  Americans  whenever  public  pleasure  was  concerned:  an  as- 
sociation would  be  formed  "to  give  more  splendor  and  regularity 
to  the  entertainment/*  66  This  tendency  already  had  expression  in 
the  colonies  through  the  social  clubs  which  met  at  the  taverns 
and  coffee-houses  for  conversation  and  drinking. 

On  a  trip  north  in  1744,  Dr.  Alexander  Hamilton  of  Maryland 


was  entertained  at  the  Physical  Club  and  Withered's  in  Boston; 
in  the  Philosophical  Club  at  Newport  (where  he  was  unduly 
surprised  "to  find  that  no  matters  of  philosophy  were  brought 
upon  the  carpet");  and  at  the  Hungarian  Club  in  New  York— 
"after  supper  they  set  in  for  drinking,  to  which  I  was  averse,  and 
therefore  sat  upon  nettles/' 57  On  visiting  Philadelphia,  Andrew 
Burnaby  wrote  of  the  "Colony  in  SchuyUdlT  whose  members  "di- 
vert themselves  with  walking,  fishing,  going  up  the  water,  danc- 
ing, singing,  conversing,  or  just  as  they  please." 5S  In  Annapolis 
the  Tuesday  Club  met  every  week,  serving  at  its  dinner  only  one 
dish  of  "vitdes"  and  no  liquor  after  eleven.  Charleston  had  its 
well-known  Jockey  Club  (as  did  Annapolis)  and  a  Monday 
Night  Club,  while  Savannah  enjoyed  a  Quoits  Club.59 

Another  meeting-ground  for  colonial  society  was  Newport, 
Rhode  Island.  "It  is  made  the  resort  every  summer,"  Robert  Mel- 
ville, the  governor  of  Granada,  wrote  in  1765,  "of  numerous 
wealthy  inhabitants  of  the  Southern  Colonies,  and  the  West 
Indies,  seeking  health  and  pleasure."  In  the  eight  years  from 
1767  to  1775,  indeed,  the  pioneer  society  column  of  the  Newport 
Mercury  listed  some  four  hundred  summer  visitors.60 

The  amusements  of  these  vacationists  included  the  assemblies, 
card  parties,  and  concerts  that  characterized  their  social  activities 
at  home.  The  Mercury  carried  notices  of  the  availability  of  Mrs. 
Cowley's  long  room  for  dancing,  with  a  "separate  genteel  Apart- 
ment with  card-tables  and  a  good  Fire,"  and  of  an  "Entertainment 
of  Musick  every  Monday,  Tuesday,  Wednesday  and  Thursday, 
to  be  given  by  Mr.  Henry  Hymes."  Newport  also  offered  outdoor 
dances  and  evening  promenades,  driving  in  chaises,  beach  races 
of  the  famous  Narragansett  pacers,  turtle  dinners  on  Goat  Island, 
and  excursions  on  "the  new  pleasure-boat,  Liberty/' 61 

David  Douglass  even  brought  the  American  Company  to  New- 
port in  a  daring  theatrical  invasion  of  New  England.  No  more 
sympathetic  audience  was  likely  to  be  found  in  all  America,  but 
there  remained  the  fact  that  geographicaDy  at  least  Newport  was 
within  the  precincts  of  Puritanism.  A  performance  to  be  given 


at  the  King's  Anns  Tavern  on  June  10,  1762,  was  therefore  an- 
nounced as  a  moral  dialogue.  The  sole  object  of  the  entertain- 
ment, it  was  carefully  explained,  was  to  depict  "the  evil  effects 
of  jealousy  and  other  bad  passions.  .  .  .  Proving  that  happiness 
can  only  spring  from  the  pursuit  of  Virtue."  Mr.  Douglass  him- 
self would  represent  "a  noble  and  magnanimous  Moor/*  Mr.  Hal- 
lam  take  the  part  of  a  "young  and  thoughtless  officer,"  while  Mrs. 
Morris  would  be  cast  as  a  "young  and  virtuous  wife,  who,  being 
wrongfully  suspected,  gets  smothered  (in  an  adjoining  room)  by 
her  husband."  The  dialogue  was  to  conclude  at  ten-thirty  "in 
order  that  every  spectator  may  go  home  at  a  sober  hour,  and  re- 
flect upon  what  he  has  seen,  before  he  retires  to  rest"  62 

What  could  be  more  conducive  to  morals?  What  could  offer 
less  offense  to  the  puritan  conscience?  But  there  were  Calvinists 
in  Rhode  Island  who  had  heard  of  Othello,  who  had  heard  of 
Shakespeare.  They  knew  the  theatre  for  the  Devil's  handiwork 
which  it  really  was.  A  few  performances  were  given  in  Newport, 
the  company  even  ventured  to  Providence,  but  the  Rhode  Island 
Assembly  soon  took  decisive  action.  There  would  be  no  more 
theatrical  performances,  on  penalty  of  £100  fine  for  every 
actor.63  Newport  continued  to  flourish  as  a  summer  resort,  but  it 
had  to  get  along  without  its  theatre. 

ON  THE  EVE  of  the  Revolution  the  Continental  Congress  proposed 
to  curtail  the  amusements  of  the  colonial  aristocracy.  One  of  the 
articles  of  the  "Association"  of  1774  called  upon  the  several  col- 
onies to  "discountenance  and  discourage  every  Species  of  Ex- 
travagance and  Dissipation,  especially  all  Horse  Racing,  and  all 
Kinds  of  Gaming,  Cock  Fighting,  Exhibitions  of  Shows,  Plays, 
and  other  expensive  Diversions  and  Entertainments.  .  .  ."  M 

It  is  interesting  that  these  amusements  should  have  had  a  suffi- 
ciently wide  vogue  to  warrant  such  action;  it  is  interesting  to 
speculate  upon  the  possible  motives  behind  this  drastic  ban.  Was 
it  an  expression  of  popular  discontent  with  an  extravagant  way 


of  life  which  contrasted  too  sharply  with  the  simple,  frugal,  hard- 
working life  of  the  colonial  yeomanry?  Was  it  the  sign  of  an  in- 
herent Puritanism  in  the  attitude  of  the  New  England  delegates 
at  the  Continental  Congress  which  was  outraged  by  the  frivolity 
of  the  rich  planters  of  the  South?  The  Revolution  had  its  social 
as  well  as  its  political  aspects.  It  -was  an  attack  upon  economic 
privilege  at  home  as  well  as  upon  political  control  from  abroad. 
This  resolution  voiced  a  protest  which  may  well  have  reflected 
the  stirrings  of  a  new  class  consciousness  in  colonial  America. 

In  any  event,  the  local  committees  of  correspondence  and  the 
Sons  of  Liberty,  representing  the  masses  rather  than  the  classes, 
took  it  upon  themselves  to  enforce  the  resolution.  Horse-races 
'were  effectively  prohibited,  the  American  Company  of  Come- 
dians compelled  to  leave  for  the  West  Indies,  and  balls  and  as- 
semblies were  on  occasion  broken  up  by  radical  agitators.  The 
recreation  of  merchant  and  planter  was  rudely  interrupted  even 
before  war  broke  out,  and  not  until  well  after  the  Revolution 
could  a  restored  society  again  enjoy  a  social  life  in  any  way 
comparable  to  that  of  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  century. 



-fJL  fitting  into  no  general  pattern,  were  the  amusements  of  the 
frontier.  They  maintained  their  place  in  our  national  life  for 
almost  a  century  after  the  establishment  of  the  Republic.  New 
developments  affecting  other  phases  of  social  activity  did  not 
touch  them.  But  the  frontier  during  these  years  was  being  pushed 
farther  and  farther  westward,  changing  in  place  if  not  in  spirit 
And  once  civilization  had  caught  up  with  it— on  the  slopes  of  the 
Alleghenies,  in  the  valley  of  the  Mississippi,  on  the  Great  Plains 
—the  natural  restraints  of  a  more  conventional  way  of  life  quickly 
spelled  the  decline  of  many  of  the  pioneers*  rough  and  boisterous 

At  the  opening  of  the  nineteenth  century,  travelers  in  Ohio 
brought  home  vivid  accounts  of  the  "dram-drinking,  jockeying, 
and  gambling"  that  characterized  the  frontier.  They  told  tall 
tales  of  barbecues  and  backwoods  balls  where  home-distilled 
whisky  stood  ready  at  hand  in  an  open  tub,  a  drinking-gourd 
beside  it  The  women  sometimes  drank  toddies;  the  men  took 
theirs  straight: 

Hail  Columbia,  happy  land, 
If  you  ain't  drunk,  111  be  damned. 

Some  three  decades  later,  when  this  pioneer  country  had  become 
a  state  proudly  boasting  close  upon  a  minion  inhabitants,  Frances 
Trollope  was  visiting  Cincinnati.  "The  only  rural  amusement  in 
which  we  ever  saw  the  natives  engaged,"  die  wrote,  "was  eating 
strawberries  and  cream  in  a  pretty  garden  about  three  miles  from 



town."  *  So  rapidly  did  the  new  West  progress  from  its  tumultu- 
ous beginnings. 

The  story  was  a  similar  one  everywhere.  The  Federalist  period 
found  the  western  pioneers  enjoying  very  much  the  same  diver- 
sions from  the  backwoods  of  New  York  to  those  of  Georgia. 
Twenty  years  pass,  and  the  environment  has  so  changed  that 
the  life  of  these  early  days  is  almost  legend,  but  the  same  scenes 
are  being  reenacted  on  the  new  frontier  in  the  Ohio  Valley.  Two 
more  decades,  and  this  western  border  is  pushed  beyond  the 
Great  River;  soon  the  trails  to  Oregon  and  California  will  be 
opened  up.  And  finally  the  latter  half  of  the  nineteenth  century 
will  witness  settlement  of  the  prairie  states,  the  establishment 
of  the  cow-towns  of  Kansas  and  Wyoming,  the  mining-camps  of 
Colorado  and  Nevada.  Here  again  the  exuberant  spirit  of  the 
early  frontier,  with  even  more  riotous  emphasis  on  its  drinking 
and  gambling,  will  flare  up  and  then  die  away  against  the  color- 
ful background  of  Abilene  or  Virginia  City. 

In  this  new  western  country  a  nation  was  being  born.  Its  set- 
tlers were  not  transplanted  Englishmen,  but  largely  men  born 
on  American  soil  and  imbued  with  American  ideals.  They  poured 
forth  from  the  older  states  in  successive  waves,  these  pioneers 
whose  restless  steps  led  them  continually  toward  the  setting  sun. 
Hunters  and  trappers,  carrying  lightly  their  long  rifles,  blazed 
the  forest  trails;  land-hungry  settlers  followed  in  their  wake  with 
ax  and  plow  to  clear  the  land  and  build  their  log-cabin  homes; 
and  at  last  the  artisans  and  mechanics  and  tradespeople  drove 
over  the  widening  trails  in  lumbering  Conestoga  wagons  to  trans- 
form the  scattered  frontier  outposts  into  thriving  towns. 

Life  in  this  virgin  territory  was  on  a  more  generous  scale  than 
life  had  been  on  the  shores  of  the  Atlantic  at  a  similar  stage  of 
development.  Distances  were  greater,  the  vast  forest  lands  more 
impenetrable,  the  rivers  longer  and  deeper.  With  land  trails  more 
difficult  of  passage  than  ocean  routes,  the  first  settlers  in  trans- 
Appalachia  were  actually  more  cut  off  from  civilization  than 
the  founders  of  America  had  been  from  their  homeland.  They 


were  freer  from  restraining  influences;  circumstances  compelled 
them  to  be  more  independent  and  self-sufficient  With  no  over- 
seas trading  companies  sending  them  supplies,  buying  their  prod- 
ucts, exercising  control  over  their  activities,  the  western  pioneers 
recognized  no  authority  except  of  their  own  choosing. 

They  came  from  all  ranks  of  contemporary  society:  there 
were  the  amiable  and  the  virtuous,  in  the  approving  phrase  of 
Timothy  Flint  (hopefully  distributing  copies  of  The  Swearer's 
Prayer"  to  Pennsylvania  teamsters),  and  the  scoundrels  and  wast- 
rels singled  out  by  Timothy  Dwight.  The  pioneers  of  the  new 
West,  that  is,  comprised  a  cross-section  of  society  in  the  older 
states  just  as  the  colonial  settlers  had  represented  all  social  ele- 
ments of  seventeenth-century  England.  But  experience  in  Amer- 
ica had  given  them  a  new  approach  to  life.  They  were  tougher 
and  more  adaptable.  They  were  not  the  men  to  starve  when  fish 
and  game  were  plentiful.  They  had  expansive  theories  of  democ- 
racy and  a  strong  belief  in  the  equality  of  man.  They  had  an 
individualism  which  would  not  permit  them  to  settle  together  in 
close  little  towns  comparable  to  those  of  New  England  in  the 
early  days  of  settlement.  Each  man  was  prepared  to  hew  his 
own  way  through  the  world. 

Their  recreations  reflected  their  environment.  They  had  no 
more  leisure  than  the  first  settlers  in  America;  they  had  less  op- 
portunity for  social  gatherings.  The  frontier  offered  a  lonely  and 
hard  Me.  But  when  the  craving  for  companionship  could  no 
longer  be  ignored,  when  the  need  for  amusement  had  to  be  satis- 
fied, there  were  no  artificial  constraints  or  polite  conventions 
about  the  pioneer  celebrations.  Here  were  no  self-constituted 
magistrates  attempting  to  regulate  manners  and  morals  or  to 
enforce  rules  against  the  "mispense  of  time."  In  so  far  as  earlier 
traditions  affected  the  pioneer  attitude,  the  liberal  influence  of 
the  early  French  settlers  in  the  Mississippi  Valley  outweighed 
that  of  Puritan  New  England.  In  a  spirit  of  full  democracy,  the 
frontiersmen  intended  to  enjoy  themselves  when  they  met  at 
their  log-rollings  and  barbecues  and  camp-meetings.  The  re- 


pressive  influence  of  the  more  civilized  East  would  soon  reach 
them,  but  for  a  time  the  pioneers  lived  their  own  life. 

They  drank  the  raw,  stinging  whisky  of  the  country  with  even 
more  gusto  than  their  colonial  forebears;  they  gambled  with 
greater  abandon  over  horses  and  cards.  The  sports  and  games 
that  marked  their  infrequent  social  gatherings  were  always 
rough,  and  sometimes  brutal.  When  they  met  on  some  festive 
occasion,  they  danced  through  the  whole  night.  They  had  no 
thought  of  observing  Sunday  quiet  and  decorum.  As  the  frontier 
stretched  ever  farther  westward,  they  boasted  that  the  Sabbath 
would  never  cross  the  Mississippi. 

IN  THE  FIRST  DAYS  of  settlement  the  frontiersman  was  seldom 
seen  without  his  rifle,  generally  a  long  and  heavy  single-barreled 
flintlock;  his  otter-skin  bullet  pouch,  with  its  string  of  patches; 
his  powder-horn;  and  his  "iron  hook  to  tote  squirrels."  Often  a 
pack  of  mongrel  dogs  crowded  his  moccasined  heels.  The  co- 
lonial settler  with  his  Old  World  background  had  hardly  known 
how  to  handle  his  gun;  the  ways  of  the  forest  were  entirely 
strange  to  him.  These  later  pioneers  were  thoroughly  at  home 
on  its  narrow,  winding  trails;  they  were  hunters  before  every- 
thing else. 

The  wealth  of  game  along  this  new  frontier  was  even  greater 
than  that  of  the  Atlantic  seaboard.  In  his  Memorable  Days  in 
America,  William  Faux  relates  that  there  were  times  when  the 
flocks  of  wild  pigeons  roosting  on  the  trees  sent  them  crashing 
to  the  ground  amid  "a  scene  of  confusion  and  destruction,  too 
strange  to  describe,  and  too  dangerous  to  be  approached  by 
either  man  or  beast."  2  The  dead  pigeons  would  be  gathered  up 
by  the  cartload—  which  is  recorded  as  an  illustration  of  the  game 
available  rather  than  of  the  sport  of  hunting. 

Competitive  squirrel  hunts  are  often  mentioned  in  travel  ac- 
counts. On  one  occasion  two  competing  teams  of  four  men  each 
returned  at  nightfall,  the  one  with  152  squirrels  and  the  other 


with  141.  Another  time  two  thousand  tails  were  brought  home 
as  trophies.  The  record  was  perhaps  that  announced  by  the 
Kentucky  Gazette  in  May,  1796.  It  reported  that  a  party  of 
hunters  "rendezvoused  at  Irvine's  Lick  and  produced  seven 
thousand  nine  hundred  and  forty-one  Squirrels  killed  by  them 
in  one  day."*  The  frontiersmen  were  such  crack  shots,  as  Audu- 
bon  and  many  others  have  testified,  that  they  could  kill  a  squirrel 
by  barking  it— firing  so  close  to  it  that  the  squirrel  would  fall  to 
the  ground  stunned  by  the  concussion,  without  actually  being 
touched  by  the  bullet3 

Wolf  drives  and  ring  hunts  were  also  features  of  pioneer  life. 
An  army  of  men  and  boys  from  near-by  settlements  would  form 
a  vast  encircling  line  of  huntsmen  around  an  area  of  perhaps  forty 
square  miles.  Gradually  they  would  close  in  the  circle,  driving 
ahead  of  them  all  the  game  they  could  scare  up.  When  at  last 
the  ring  was  so  small  that  the  harried  animals  began  to  try  to 
break  through,  the  signal  of  a  huntsman's  horn  would  start  a 
wholesale  slaughter.  Guns  would  be  used  as  long  as  this  was  rea- 
sonably safe,  and  then  clubs,  pitchforks,  any  available  weapon. 
At  one  such  hunt,  some  sixty  bear,  twenty-five  deer,  one  hundred 
turkeys,  and  even  larger  numbers  of  smaller  animals  and  game- 
birds  were  reported  to  have  fallen  before  the  enthusiastic 

Pride  in  marksmanship  made  shooting  matches  of  all  kinds 
even  more  popular  than  they  had  been  in  the  colonies.  They 
were  an  institution  along  the  entire  border  at  the  close  of  the 
Revolution,  and  they  followed  the  frontier  westward,  bequeath- 
ing to  more  settled  communities  in  the  East  rifle  clubs  and  trap- 
shooting.  It  was  no  longer  customary  to  shoot  at  a  live  mark,  a 
staked  fowl  or  animal,  and  take  it  off  as  the  trophy.  Targets  were 
more  generally  used,  and  a  "beeve"  or  a  barrel  of  whisky  was 
often  the  prize. 

Entrants  in  one  of  these  contests  would  pay  twenty-five  cents 
for  each  shot,  each  man  supplying  his  own  target,  a  cross  mark- 
ing the  bull's-eye  or  a  center  nail.  Rides  of  procedure  would  be 


carefully  agreed  upon  (such  as  the  allowance  for  an  offhand 
shot  as  opposed  to  shooting  with  a  rest)  and  an  impartial  board 
of  judges  selected.  To  the  marksman  who  most  often  hit  the 
bull's-eye,  or  drove  his  center  nail  in  farthest,  custom  decreed 
award  of  the  hide  and  tallow  of  the  beef  animal  for  which  they 
were  shooting;  to  the  second  highest  scorer  went  choice  of  the 
animal's  hindquarters;  third,  the  remaining  hindquarter;  fourth, 
choice  of  the  forequarters;  fifth,  the  remaining  f orequarter;  while 
the  man  in  sixth  place  would  be  entitled  to  the  lead  in  the  tree 
on  which  the  targets  had  been  set  up. 

This  is  one  of  our  homely  amusements,"  wrote  Colonel  Davy 
Crockett.  "Each  man^laES^a  part,  if  he  pleases,  and  no  one  is 
excepted."  Side  bets  generally  enlivened  the  match,  Davy  Crock- 
ett declaring  that  he  would  "never  bet  anything  beyond  a  quart 
of  whisky  upon  a  rifle  shot— which  I  considered  a  legal  bet,  and 
a  gentlemanly  and  rational  amusement."  * 

A  more  hazardous  type  of  shooting  match,  which  John  Bernard 
mentions  as  popular  in  the  western  parts  of  the  Carolinas  early 
in  the  century,  was  "sho^^g^the^tin^jpup/' 5  We  are  told  that  it 
meant  jftsrjfe  shooting  a  tin  cup  off  a  man's  head  at  thirty 
paces  for  a  prize  of  a  quart  of  whisky.  Mike  Fink,  the  legendary 
hero  of  the  Ohio  keel-boat  men,  was  to  become  the  great  cham- " 
pion  at  this  sport.  The  redoubtable  Mike  is  said  never~tb  have 
missed  until  the  sad  occasion  when  "corned  too  Heavy ...  he 
elevated  too  low.*'  He  shot  his  man  through  the  head,  and  it  was 
the  resentment  of  the  victim's  friends  at  such  inexcusable  care- ' 
lessness  that  finally  brought  to  a  violent  end  the  last  of  the  great 
rivennen.  —  , 

Racing  was  almost  as  universal  an  amusement  as  shooting 
matches,  a  characteristic  feature  of  every  pioneer  celebration. 
Every  owner  of  a  horse  was  confident  of  its  prowess  and  eager 
to  match  it  against  all  comers.  And  for  the  entire  community  the 
race  offered  a  chance  to  bet  America  has  always  had  its  race 
meets,  from  colonial  days  to  the  present,  but  the  informal,  spon- 
taneous quarter-racing  of  the  countryside  was  for  long  a  far 

Painting  by  George  Caleb  Bingham,  1850,  Garvan  Collection,  Courtesy 
of  the  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art, 

Joys  of  the  Camp-Meeting 

Lithograph  by  Kennedy  and  Lucas  after  a  painting  by  A.  Rider.  Courtesy 
of  Harry  T.  Peters. 


more  general  sport  It  followed  the  frontier  from  the  Atlantic 
seaboard  to  Wyoming  and  Arizona.  In  the  early  days  of  settle- 
ment in  the  valley  of  the  Ohio,  there  were  races  of  every  kind. 
Lively  accounts  tell  of  all  Pittsburgh  turning  out  in  that  city: 
the  local  course  lined  with  an  excited  crowd;  the*  betting,  drink- 
ing, and  occasional  fisticuffs;  the  sudden  rush  to  the  rails  as  the 
cry  rang  out,  "To  horse,  to  horse!" 6 

The  importance  of  physical  strength  in  pioneer  life  gave  a 
fresh  interest  to  other  traditional  colonial  sports,  and  also  ac- 
counted for  new  variations  of  the  older  events.  Throwing  the 
long  bullet,  hurling  the  tomahawk,  and  flinging  the  rail  were 
added  to  the  usual  foot-races,  jumping  contests,  and  wrestling 
matches.  In  place  of  the  old  sport  of  quoits— at  which  Chief 
Justice  Marshall  had  been  a  club  champion— the  homely  pastime 
of  pitching  horseshoes  became  a  favorite  game.  It  was  to  remain 
one  for  the  next  century,  a  typically  American  amusement 

Andrew  Jackson  was  reputed  to  be  a  champion  at  throwing 
the  long  bullet— a  sport  which  involved  throwing,  or  slinging 
from  a  leather  strap,  an  iron  ball  of  several  pounds  weight  in 
such  a  way  as  to  make  it  roll  through  a  marked  goal.  Abraham 
Lincoln  won  wide  fame  for  his  weight-lifting  and  wrestling 
prowess.  Reminiscences  of  the  latter's  contemporaries  recall  that 
the  awkward  country  boy,  so  strong  that  he  could  pick  up  a 
whisky  barrel  and  drink  out  of  the  bung-hole,  was  among  the 
most  active  in  the  sports  of  the  little  town  of  New  Salem,  Illinois. 
His  friends  were  always  ready  to  back  him  against  all  comers. 
One  time  he  failed  them.  He  was  matched  against  a  local  wres- 
tling champion,  and  for  all  their  efforts  neither  man  could  get  a 
fall.  Lincoln  recognized  his  equal:  "Jack,  let's  quit  I  can't  throw 
you— you  can't  throw  me."  7 

Mark  Twain  has  written  of  a  rough-and-tumble  fighter  of  the 
western  country  somewhat  more  confident  of  himself.  "Whoo- 
oopl  I'm  the  old  original  iron-jawed,  brass-mounted,  copper- 
bellied  corpse-maker  from  the  wilds  of  Arkansaw!"  this  shrinking 
violet  announced  as  he  challenged  all  comers.  "Look  at  me!  I'm 


the  man  they  call  Sudden  Death  and  General  Desolation!  Sired 
by  a  hurricane,  dam'd  by  an  earthquake,  half-brother  to  the 
cholera,  nearly  related  to  the  small-pox  on  the  mother's  side! 
Look  at  me!  I  take  nineteen  alligators  and  a  barl  of  whiskey  for 
breakfast  when  I'm  in  robust  health,  and  a  bushel  of  rattlesnakes 
and  a  dead  body  when  I'm  ailing.  I  split  the  everlasting  rocks 
with  my  glance,  and  I  squench  the  thunder  when  I  speak!  Stand 
back  and  give  me  room  according  to  my  strength!  Blood's  my 
natural  drink,  and  the  wails  of  the  dying  is  music  to  my  ear! 
Cast  your  eye  on  me,  gentlemen,  and  lay  low  and  hold  your 
breath,  for  I'm  T^out  to  turn  myself  loose."  8 

Sometimes  these  frontier  bouts  ended  very  close  to  Sudden 
Death.  All  holds  were  allowed,  and  kicking,  biting,  punching, 
and  gouging  freely  permitted.  "I  saw  more  than  one  man,  who 
wanted  an  eye,"  one  traveler  reported  as  he  crossed  the  bor- 
der into  Kentucky,  "and  ascertained  that  I  was  now  in  the  region 
of  'gouging.' " 9  Another  judged  the  respectability  of  the  inns  at 
which  he  was  forced  to  put  up  by  whether  mine  host  still  had 
his  ears. 

''Very  few  rounds  had  taken  place,"  runs  a  vivid  account  of 
one  fight,  "before  the  Virginian  contracted  his  whole  form,  drew 
up  his  arms  to  his  face,  with  his  hands  closed  in  a  concave,  by 
the  fingers  being  bent  to  the  full  extension  of  the  flexors,  and 
summoning  up  all  his  energy  for  one  act  of  desperation,  pitched 
himself  into  the  bosom  of  his  opponent. . . .  The  shock  received 
by  the  Kentuckian  and  the  want  of  breath  brought  him  instantly 
to  the  ground.  The  Virginian  never  lost  his  hold;  fixing  his  claws 
in  his  hair  and  his  thumbs  in  his  eyes,  he  gave  them  an  instan- 
taneous start  from  their  sockets.  The  sufferer  roared  aloud,  but 
uttered  no  complaint  The  Kentuckian  not  being  able  to  disen- 
tangle his  adversary  from  his  face,  adopted  a  new  mode  of  war- 
fare. He  extended  his  arms  around  the  Virginian,  and  hugged 
him  into  closer  contact  with  his  huge  body.  The  latter,  disliking 
this,  made  one  further  effort  and  fastening  the  under  lip  of  his 
mutilator  tore  it  over  the  chin.  The  Kentuckian  at  length  gave 


out,  on  which  the  people  carried  off  the  victor,  and  he  preferring 
a  triumph  to  a  doctor . . .  suffered  himself  to  be  chaired  round 
the  grounds  as  the  first  rough  and  tumbler." 10 

While  this  record  bears  the  mark  of  a  lively  imagination,  the 
brutality  reflected  in  such  fighting  was  perhaps  only  natural  in 
a  frontier  community.  It  was  also  shown  in  the  popularity  of 
cock-fighting  and  gander-pulling.  Lincoln  attended  cock-fights, 
as  had  George  Washington  before  him,  and  William  Herndon 
has  left  a  fragmentary  description  of  one  such  affair.  "They 
formed  a  ring,  and  the  time  having  arrived,  Lincoln,  with  one 
hand  on  each  hip  and  in  a  squatting  position,  cried,  'Ready/ 
Into  the  ring  they  toss  their  fowls,  Bap's  red  rooster  along  with 
the  rest.  But  no  sooner  had  the  little  beauty  discovered  what 
was  to  be  done  than  he  dropped  his  tail  and  ran." la 

Whether  Lincoln  had  a  wager  on  Bap's  disappointing  game- 
cock is  not  revealed,  but  if  the  story  had  been  told  of  Andrew 
Jackson,  we  could  have  been  sure  of  the  betting.  As  a  young 
man  in  North  Carolina,  he  was  known  as  "the  most  roaring,  rol- 
licking, game-cocking,  horse-racing,  card-playing,  mischievous 
fellow,  that  ever  lived  in  Salisbury."  The  earliest  document  found 
among  his  personal  papers  is  a  memorandum:  "How  to  feed  a 
Cock  before  you  him  fight  Take  and  give  him  some  Pickle  Beef 
cut  fine " 12 

More  surprising  to  find  in  these  early  years  are  the  occasional 
instances  of  cricket-playing  reported  by  some  travelers.  Wher- 
ever settlements  were  made  by  English  immigrants  in  the  nine- 
teenth century,  this  sport  was  introduced.  They  played  it  on  the 
open  fields  of  the  settled  East;  they  played  it  on  the  little  clear- 
ings of  this  new  western  country.  William  Faux  noted  it  in  Ken- 
tucky in  1818,  and  both  John  Woods  and  Richard  Flower  report 
it  as  a  sport  in  Illinois  a  year  later.18  The  Chicago  of  1840,  where 
foot-races,  boating,  and  quoits  were  also  general  diversions,  had 
three  cricket  teams.  Here  was  fertile  ground  for  the  introduction 
of  baseball  in  the  middle  of  the  century.14 


BEES  and  frolics,  which  had  become  so  universal  a  feature  of 
American  folk  life,  were  often  the  occasion  for  sports  and  games, 
for  informal  horse-races,  and  for  frontier  dances.  One  English 
visitor  came  to  the  conclusion  that  Americans  could  not  do  any- 
thing without  a  frolic.  They  have  husking,  reaping,  rolling 
frolics,  &,"  he  wrote;  "among  the  females,  they  have  picking, 
sewing  and  quilting  frolics." 15  Their  most  general  characteristic 
appears  to  have  been  their  enthusiastic  drinking.  They  had 
changed  from  colonial  days  in  only  one  respect,  the  substitution 
of  whisky  for  rum. 

The  log-rolling  was  perhaps  the  most  typical  of  these  gather- 
ings. A  settler  taking  up  land  in  the  West  had  a  hard  task  clear- 
ing his  ground.  He  would  first  girdle  the  trees  on  the  plot  he 
expected  to  plant,  cutting  a  wide  circle  in  the  bark  to  kill  them, 
but  when  he  finally  cut  them  down,  he  had  to  have  help  to  roll 
the  huge  logs  into  piles  for  burning.  Neighbors  from  miles 
around  came  to  aid  in  this  work,  and  the  log-rolling  was  made  a 
holiday  spree  in  which  whole  families— wives  and  children— took 

Dinner  was  a  gargantuan  feast:  a  barbecued  beef  or  hog, 
roasted  in  a  deep  hole  lined  with  hot  stones;  quantities  of  buf- 
falo steaks,  venison,  baked  'possum  or  wild  turkey;  and  always 
hominy,  corn  dodgers,  and  wheatcakes  fried  in  bear's  oil.  After 
dinner  and  general  sports,  the  climax  of  every  gathering  was  a 
dance.  The  men  and  women  of  the  frontier  loved  to  dance.  It 
was  a  favorite  amusement  everywhere,  singled  out  by  traveler 
after  traveler  surprised  to  find  such  rollicking  gaiety  in  the 
gloomy  shadows  of  the  deep  western  forests. 

There  were  no  formal  rules  of  etiquette  for  the  backwoods 
ball,  no  costumes  in  the  latest  mode  of  London  or  Paris.  Deer- 
skin hunting-jackets,  leggings,  and  moccasins  for  the  men;  for 
the  women,  homespun  dresses  of  linsey-woolsey  and  worn  shoes 
which  they  had  perhaps  carried  in  their  hands  on  the  long  walk 
along  forest  trails.  As  for  the  dances  themselves,  "None  of  your 
straddling,  mincing,  sadying,"  wrote  Davy  Crockett,  "but  a  regu- 


lar  sifter,  cut-the-buckle,  chicken  flutter  set-to.  It  is  a  good  whole- 
some exercise;  and  when  one  of  our  boys  puts  his  arm  around 
his  partner,  it's  a  good  hug,  and  no  harm  in  it" 16 

Virginia  reels,  country  jigs,  shakedowns,  were  the  order  of  the 
day,  danced  on  the  forest  floor  as  the  fiddler  made  the  catgut 
screech  through  the  night  air  and  the  pine  knots  flared  against  a 
full  moon.  Some  one  called  the  numbers: 

First  lady  to  the  right,  cheat  and  swing, 
Ladies  do  so  do,  and  gents  you  know. 

Gents  hands  in  your  pockets,  backs  to  the  wall, 
Take  a  chaw  of  tabacker  and  balance  alL 

Well  into  the  morning  the  backwoodsmen  danced:  every  now 
and  then  a  halt  for  a  "bite  and  a  swig,"  but  the  violins  always 
called  them  back  to  their  wooded  ball-room. 

"Every  countenance  beamed  with  joy,"  wrote  Audubon,  lyri- 
cally describing  a  Kentucky  barbecue  in  1834,  "every  heart 
leaped  with  gladness;  no  pride,  no  pomp,  no  affectation  were 
there;  their  spirits  brightened  as  they  continued  their  exhilarat- 
ing exercise,  and  care  and  sorrow  were  flung  to  the  winds.  Dur- 
ing each  interval  of  rest,  refreshments  of  all  sorts  were  handed 
round,  and  while  the  fair  one  cooled  her  lips  with  the  grateful 
juice  of  the  melon,  the  hunter  of  Kentucky  quenched  his  thirst 
with  ample  draughts  of  well-tempered  punch."  ar  He  too  de- 
scribes the  racing  and  shooting  at  a  mark,  the  tables  heaped 
with  food  and  the  ready  barrels  of  Old  Monongahela. 

On  the  sod-house  frontier  soon  to  be.  opened  up  beyond  the 
Mississippi,  dancing  became  as  popular  as  it  had  been  in  the 
Ohio  Valley.  There  was  always  a  great  scarcity  of  women  for 
the  holiday  balls,  and  the  young  men  would  scour  the  prairies 
looking  for  partners.  They  would  ride  in  to  the  dance  with 
young  girls  or  grandmothers,  it  little  mattered,  perched  on  the 
saddle  behind  them,  calico  dresses  neatly  tucked  in,  sunbonnets 
swinging  in  the  wind.  On  one  mid-century  occasion  no  less  than 
two  thousand  people  gathered  at  Brownsville,  Nebraska,  for  a 


Fourth  of  July  barbecue  and  dance.  The  buffalo,  venison,  oxen, 
sheep,  hogs,  and  pigs  slaughtered  were  said  to  have  been 
"enough  to  have  fed  the  whole  territory."  Another  time  a  New 
Year's  dance  at  Lecompton,  Kansas,  found  the  ladies  dancing  on 
the  open  prairie  in  mackinaws  and  overshoes.  Dinner,  brought 
in  by  hunters,  was  served  in  tents  pitched  by  a  roaring  fire.  For 
a  frolic  at  Blue  Springs,  Nebraska,  a  special  committee  caught 
one  thousand  pounds  of  catfish.18 

They  danced  the  scamperdown,  double  shuffle,  western  swing, 
and  half-moon: 

Grab  your  honies,  don't  let  *em  fall, 
Shake  your  hoofs  and  balance  all. 

A  deep  pull  from  the  little  brown  jug;  the  men  would  swing 
their  partners  until  they  kicked  the  ceiling— if  there  was  any  ceil- 
ing. Faster,  faster,  the  old  fiddler  would  sway  over  his  precious 
instrument,  and  heavy  boots  stamp  on  the  hard  ground  floor. 
Receptions,  and  assemblies,  and  cotillions  were  just  over  the  hori- 
zon. This  was  still  the  frontier.  Another  swig  from  the  little 
brown  jug;  call  out  the  numbers: 

Ringtailed  coons  in  the  trees  at  play: 
Grab  your  pardners  and  all  run  away. 

Weddings  and  infares  provided  other  bright  spots  in  pioneer 
life.  On  the  occasion  of  the  former,  the  day  usually  started  with 
the  groom's  friends  escorting  him  to  the  bride's  house,  on  horse- 
back, in  solemn  procession.  But  the  moment  the  party  came  in 
sight  of  their  destination,  they  would  be  off  on  a  mad  race  to  be 
the  first  to  arrive.  For  custom  decreed  a  prize  for  the  winner— a 
whisky  bottle  affectionately  known  as  Black  Betty.  Once  the 
ceremony  itself  was  performed,  this  bottle  circulated  briskly,  and 
the  party  took  care  of  itself. 

The  wedding  guests  had  a  friendly  obligation,  however.  They 
put  the  newly  married  couple  to  bed,  with  the  crude  jokes  and 
good-natured  ribaldry  typical  of  the  frontier.  Then,  as  the  eve- 


ning  grew  gayer  and  the  whisky  flowed  more  freely— "Where  is 
Black  Betty,  I  want  to  kiss  her  sweet  lips"— they  would  thought- 
fully send  up  drinks  with  uproarious  shouted  toasts:  "Here's  to 
the  bride,  thumping  luck  and  big  children." 

The  horse-play  was  sometimes  rough.  Uninvited  guests  might 
try  to  cut  off  the  manes  and  tails  of  the  wedding  party's  horses; 
they  sometimes  attempted  to  set  up  a  pair  of  horns  on  a  pole 
near  the  house  as  a  subtle  reflection  on  the  bride's  chastity.  To 
interrupt  the  ceremony  just  as  the  minister  started  to  read  the 
service  by  letting  loose  so  noisy  a  serenade  that  he  could  not  be 
heard,  or  even  to  try  kidnapping  the  groom,  was  a  popular  sport 
The  charivari  or  "shivaree,"  that  noisy  concert  in  which  no  instru- 
ment was  more  effective  than  a  horseshoe  and  a  sugar-kettle,  in 
time  became  so  regular  a  feature  of  frontier  wedding  celebra- 
tions that  the  bride's  family  had  always  to  stand  ready  to  buy 
obstreperous  serenaders  off  with  more  liquor.19 

The  story  is  told  that  Lincoln  once  almost  broke  up  a  wedding 
party.  He  was  not  invited,  perhaps  as  the  result  of  some  earlier 
feud,  to  a  double  ceremony  in  the  Grigsby  family,  and  he  ar- 
ranged witi  a  confederate  for  a  sensational  revenge.  When  the 
grooms  were  escorted  to  their  respective  bridal  chambers,  they 
found  themselves  with  the  wrong  brides.  Lincoln  then  went  on 
to  add  insult  to  injury  by  writing  a  scandalous  version  of  the 
whole  affair— "The  Chronicle  of  Reuben."  The  consequences  are 
obscure:  a  renewed  feud,  a  general  fight,  and  Lincoln  waving  a 
triumphant  whisky  bottle  over  his  head  and  shouting  that  he  was 
"the  big  buck  of  the  lick." 20 

The  accounts  of  this  incident  may  be  embroidered,  for  nothing 
was  more  typical  of  the  frontier  than  the  telling  of  tall  tales.  At 
every  frolic,  as  well  as  at  trading-posts,  about  camp-fires,  on  the 
decks  of  flatboats,  and  at  the  village  taverns,  the  pioneers  whiled 
away  hours  with  story  and  anecdote.  In  no  other  part  of  the 
country  has  talk  played  a  larger  r61e  in  popular  diversion.  There 
grew  up  in  the  West  a  wealth  of  legend  and  folklore,  at  once 
realistic  and  wildly  exaggerated,  which  was  American  to  the 


core.  Stories  of  Daniel  Boone,  Kit  Carson,  Davy  Crockett,  or 
some  even  more  mythical  figure  as  Mike  Fink,  Paul  Bunyan,  or 
Jim  Henry,  are  still  a  delight  to  an  age  far  removed  from  that 
which  gave  birth  to  them. 

There  were  the  traditional  tales  of  mighty  hunters,  of  wonder- 
ful marksmanship,  of  the  great  feats  of  the  rivermen.  A  host  of 
popular  legends  developed  about  "the  ugly  man"  (Lincoln  him- 
self could  have  filled  this  rdle)  who  became  a  western  folk  hero. 
It  was  related  of  Davy  Crockett  that  his  grin  had  such  a  paralyz- 
ing effect  that  he  could  bring  down  raccoons  without  either  pow- 
der or  shot:  he  merely  grinned  at  the  'coon  and  it  would  fall  at 
his  feet.  One  day  his  grin  failed  to  work.  The  raccoon  appeared 
glued  to  the  tree.  But  Davy  finally  discovered  that  it  was  his 
eyes  rather  than  his  ugliness  that  had  failed  him.  There  was  no 
raccoon,  merely  an  unusual  knot  in  the  oak-tree  .  .  .  and  he  had 
grinned  all  the  bark  off  itl 

A  story  of  the  western  plains,  not  of  the  forest,  describes  a  part 
of  the  country  where  the  atmosphere  was  so  rarefied  that  the 
sound  of  one's  voice  would  be  thrown  back  from  a  mountain 
several  hundred  miles  off.  It  took  six  hours  for  the  echo  to  return. 
Making  camp  for  the  night,  Jim  Bridger  would  turn  toward  the 
mountain  and  shout  at  tie  top  of  his  voice,  "Time  to  turn  out!" 
He  could  then  roll  up  in  his  blankets,  confident  that  the  echo 
would  awaken  him  at  daybreak.21 

ANOTHER  OUTLET  valve  for  men  and  women  who  had  so  few 
chances  to  escape  their  loneliness  was  the  camp-meeting.  Its 
primary  purpose  was  to  work  a  spiritual  regeneration  among 
those  who  attended  it,  to  point  the  path  of  salvation  from  the 
ungodly  ways  fostered  by  the  rough  life  of  the  pioneer  country. 
The  Methodist  circuit-riders  warned  of  fire  and  brimstone  for  all 
those  who  indulged  in  the  frontier  amusements  of  dancing,  card- 
playing,  horse-racing,  gambling,  and  drinking.  But  at  the  same 
time  the  camp-meeting  was  an  occasion  which  often  provided 


exciting  entertainment  The  crowds,  the  intoxication  of  revivalist 
oratory,  the  hymn-singing,  all  contributed  to  an  emotional  release 
from  the  cares  of  everyday  life  which  had  every  aspect  of  hearty 

"Vast  numbers  are  there  from  curiosity  and  merely  to  enjoy 
the  spectacle,"  wrote  one  observant  visitor.  "The  young  and  the 
beautiful  are  there  with  mixed  motives,  which  it  were  not  best 
severely  to  scrutinize.** ** 

When  a  meeting  was  announced,  the  people  would  gather  from 
miles  around,  many  of  them  undertaking  a  several-days  journey. 
The  countryside  would  present  the  appearance  of  a  general 
migration.  From  the  more  settled  communities  heavy  ox  carts 
carrying  whole  families  would  bump  over  the  rough  plank  roads. 
Lonely  men  and  women  from  isolated  cabins  in  the  depths  of 
the  forest  threaded  their  way  along  trails  seldom  pierced  by  the 
light  of  the  sun.  At  the  appointed  place,  usually  some  clearing 
on  the  edge  of  the  woods,  near  water,  they  would  make  camp. 
Tents  were  pitched,  a  platform  built  for  the  preachers,  and 
sometimes  benches  set  up  for  the  huge  audience  which  would 
crowd  the  enclosure.  The  meeting  would  last  perhaps  a  week, 
with  continual  services.  It  was  a  gigantic  community  picnic. 

"Large  fires  of  timber  were  kindled,"  reads  the  description  of 
one  such  meeting,  "which  cast  a  new  lustre  on  every  object.  The 
white  tents  gleamed  in  the  glare.  Over  them  the  dusky  woods 
formed  a  most  romantic  gloom,  only  the  tall  trunks  of  the  first 
rank  were  distinctly  visible,  and  these  seemed  so  many  members 
of  a  lofty  charade.  The  illuminated  camp  lay  on  a  declivity,  and 
exposed  a  scene  that  suggested  to  my  mind  the  moonlit  gambols 
of  beings  known  to  us  only  through  the  fictions  of  credulous  eyes. 
The  greatest  turmoil  prevailed  within  the  fence,  where  the  in- 
mates were  leaping  and  holding  together  with  upward  looks  and 
extended  arms.  Around  this  busy  mass,  the  crowd  formed  a 
thicker  ring  than  the  famous  Macedonian  phalanx;  and  among 
them  a  mixture  of  the  exercised  were  interspersed. .  * .  The  sub- 
limity of  the  music  served  to  give  an  enchanting  effect  to  the 


whole. ...  It  had  been  thought  proper  to  place  sentinels  without 
the  camp.  Females  were  not  allowed  to  pass  into  the  woods 
after  dark"28 

The  manifestations  of  the  Holy  Spirit  were  strange  and  won- 
drous as  the  shouting,  gesticulating,  hair-tearing  revivalists 
warmed  to  their  vehement  attacks  on  the  Devil  and  all  his  ways. 
'It  was  supposed  that  no  less  than  three  hundred  fell  like  dead 
men  in  a  mighty  battle/'  Peter  Cartwright,  a  Methodist  circuit- 
rider  of  wide  fame,  reports  of  one  meeting  in  his  autobiography; 
"and  there  was  no  calling  of  mourners,  for  they  were  strewed 
all  over  the  camp  ground:  loud  wailing  went  up  to  Heaven  from 
sinners  for  mercy,  and  a  general  shout  from  the  Christians,  so 
that  the  noise  was  heard  afar  off."24  Another  witness  tells  of 
"twenty  thousand  persons  tossed  to  and  fro  like  the  tumultuous 
waves  of  the  sea  in  a  storm,  or  swept  down  like  trees  of  the 
forest  under  the  blast  of  a  wild  tornado/* 25 

Nor  was  falling  beneath  the  power  of  God  the  only  hysterical 
response  to  the  flaming  oratory  of  the  camp-meeting.  Other  ac- 
counts tell  of  the  Holy  Laugh  and  the  Holy  Dance,  of  people 
barking  like  a  flock  of  spaniels,  of  great  crowds  uncontrollably 
seized  by  the  jerks.  "No  matter  whether  they  were  saints  or  sin- 
ners/* Cartwright  wrote  another  time,  "they  would  be  taken 
tinder  a  warm  song  or  sermon,  and  seized  with  convulsive  jerking 
all  over,  which  they  could  not  by  any  possibility  avoid,  and  the 
more  they  resisted  the  more  they  jerked. ...  I  have  seen  more 
than  five  hundred  persons  jerking  at  one  time  in  my  large  con- 
gregations." 26 

In  bringing  men  and  women  together,  especially  young  people, 
under  such  circumstances,  the  camp-meeting  had  its  dangerous 
aspects  because  of  the  intense  emotionalism  it  stirred  up.  The 
placing  of  sentinels  about  the  ring  of  camp-fires  was  a  common 
practice,  but  with  all  precautions  there  were  many  camp-meeting 
babies.  William  Herndon  has  a  story  of  a  young  couple  at  a 
camp-meeting  in  the  Lincoln  country.  "Slowly  and  gracefully 
they  worked  their  way  towards  the  centre,"  he  writes,  "singing, 


shouting,  hugging  and  kissing,  generally  their  own  sex,  until  at 
last  nearer  and  nearer  they  came.  The  centre  of  the  altar  was 
reached,  and  the  two  closed,  with  their  arms  around  each  other, 
the  man  singing  and  shouting  at  the  top  of  his  voice 

**l  have  my  Jesus  in  my  arms 

Sweet  as  honey,  strong  as  hacon  ham."  27 

Whether  an  active  participant  or  an  interested  spectator,  it  is 
not  difficult  to  understand  why  the  frontiersman  found  the  camp- 
meeting  an  exciting  experience.  A  drunken  spree  at  barbecue  or 
log-rolling  could  hardly  rival  taking  one's  place  on  the  "anxious 
bench,"  mingling  one's  hallelujahs  with  those  of  a  thousand  other 
frenzied  converts,  or  joining  in  the  Holy  Dance  as  some  inspired 
preacher  called  the  tune.  A  revival  was  something  for  the  pio- 
neer to  look  forward  to  as  he  swung  his  heavy  ax  to  clear  another 
half-acre  or  hoed  at  his  stubborn  cornpatch.  Conversion  might 
of  course  limit  his  other  amusements,  but  it  was  not  necessary, 
as  he  must  often  have  thought  on  his  exhausted  journey  home, 
to  stay  saved  for  very  long. 


American  people  throughout  the  eastern  parts  of  the  country 
were  enjoying  very  much  the  same  recreations  as  they  had  in 
colonial  days.  The  Revolution  had  marked  a  distinct  break  in 
many  customs,  especially  for  the  wealthier  classes,  but  old 
threads  of  activity  were  quickly  picked  up.  Writing  about  1821, 
Timothy  Dwight  singled  out  the  principle  amusements  as  "visit- 
ing, dancing,  music,  conversation,  walking,  riding,  sailing,  shoot- 
ing at  a  mark,  draughts,  chess,  and  unhappily  in  some  of  the 
larger  towns,  cards  and  dramatic  exhibitions."  *  Social  life  had  a 
relative  simplicity,  and  popular  diversions  conformed  to  familiar 

But  new  winds  were  blowing.  The  turbulent,  expansive  years 
of  the  first  half  of  the  century  were  to  usher  in  changes  in  recre- 
ation as  far-reaching  as  those  in  any  other  department  of  the 
national  life.  The  country  was  going  through  the  first  phase  of 
its  transformation  from  a  simple  agricultural  community  into  a 
highly  complex  urban,  society.  New  means  of  amusement  had 
to  be  found  to  replace  those  from  which  increasingly  large  num- 
bers of  persons  were  cut  off  by  the  very  circumstance  of  city  life. 
The  rise  of  a  working  class  imbued  with  the  pervasive  ideals  of 
Jacksonian  democracy  created  a  demand  for  popular  entertain- 
ment which  had  hardly  been  felt  in  colonial  days. 

The  trend  toward  urbanization  and  the  growth  of  a  factory 
population  were  to  continue  in  later  years  at  a  greatly  accelerated 
pace.  It  was  the  novelty  of  these  developments,  crowding  people 
together  in  living  conditions  entirely  new  to  America,  that  gave 



them  their  importance  in  this  period.  Between  1800  and  1850  the 
proportion  of  the  population  living  in  urban  communities  of  more 
than  8,000  tripled,  representing  in  the  latter  year  twelve  per  cent 
of  the  total.  Some  of  the  little  colonial  towns  had  become  real 
cities.  In  mid-century  New  York  had  a  population  of  more 
than  500,000,  Philadelphia  of  over  300,000,  and  there  were  six 
other  cities  with  more  than  100,000  each.2  Still  small  by  to-day's 
standards,  they  nevertheless  gave  rise  to  a  serious  problem.  What 
was  to  be  the  recreation  of  the  new  urban  democracy  which 
could  no  longer  look  to  rural  sports  and  informal  country  pas- 
times for  relaxation?  Some  substitute  had  to  be  found  to  meet  a 
demand  growing  greater  every  year  because  of  the  indoor  con- 
finement and  monotonous  routine  of  so  much  city  work. 

^Democracy  is  too  new  a  comer  upon  the  earth,"  wrote  a 
shrewd  foreign  observer,  Michael  Chevalier,  in  1833,  "to  have 
been  able  as  yet  to  organize  its  pleasures  and  amusements.  In 
Europe,  our  pleasures  are  essentially  exclusive,  they  are  aristo- 
cratic like  Europe  itself.  In  this  matter,  then,  as  in  politics,  the 
American  democracy  has  yet  to  create  every  thing  fresh." s 

The  answer  to  this  challenge  was  the  gradual  growth  of  com- 
mercial amusements,  the  beginnings  of  what  has  now  become  a 
vast  entertainment  industry.  But  for  many  years  during  this 
difficult  period  of  transition,  recreation  appears  to  have  been 
more  limited  than  at  any  other  time  in  our  history.  The  general 
shift  from  active  to  passive  diversion  did  not  make  for  a  nor- 
mal, healthy  adjustment,  and  not  until  after  the  Civil  War  was 
this  balance  redressed  by  the  rise  of  organized  sports.  New 
forms  of  recreation,  moreover,  found  all  the  moral  forces  of  the 
age  arrayed  against  them.  Whatever  their  actual  value  as  a  re- 
lief from  the  tedium  of  everyday  life,  they  generally  stood  con- 

A  renewed  emphasis  upon  the  importance  of  work  was  one  of 
the  most  telling  repressive  influences.  The  spirit  of  the  times  was 
expressed  in  the  preamble  of  a  New  Hampshire  law:  "All  young 
countries  have  much  more  occasion  to  encourage  a  spirit  of  in- 


dustry  and  application  to  business,  than  to  countenance  schemes 
of  pleasure  and  amusement"  And  this  attitude  was  strengthened 
and  intensified  by  a  revived  Puritanism  which  again  provided  a 
moral  sanction  for  the  disapproval  of  recreation.  It  was  in  1839, 
however  reminiscent  of  1639  it  may  seem,  that  public  speakers 
everywhere  were  preaching  the  doctrine  upheld  by  one  promi- 
nent lecturer  who  sententiously  declared,  "We  tolerate  no  drones 
in  our  hive.  .  .  .  The  sweat-drops  on  the  brow  of  honest  toil  are 
more  precious  than  the  jewels  of  a  ducal  coronet."  4 

The  intolerance  of  the  seventeenth  century,  rather  than  the 
liberalism  of  the  eighteenth,  swayed  public  opinion.  It  was  the 
dark  period  of  Victorian  repression.  For  the  recreational  scene 
actually  to  broaden  under  these  circumstances,  as  it  eventually 
did,  was  proof  of  an  underlying  need  on  the  part  of  the  American 
democracy  which  could  not  permanently  be  left  unanswered.  It 
was  the  expression  of  an  unconscious  determination  in  the  pur- 
suit of  pleasure  which  had  even  stronger  roots  than  Puritan 

THE  OPPORTUNITY  to  develop  the  boundless  resources  of  a  con- 
tinent, the  need  to  build  up  trade  and  industry  in  order  to  assert 
our  economic  as  well  as  our  political  independence,  afforded 
very  real  justification  for  a  return  to  the  gospel  of  work.  Without 
our  national  response  to  this  opportunity  the  material  develop- 
ment of  the  country  would  have  been  substantially  slowed  up. 
But  it  was  equally  true  that  continual  application  to  business, 
with  increasing  concern  over  its  profits,  greatly  narrowed  the 
horizon  of  the  average  American.  He  became  obsessed  with  a 
mania  for  making  money.  Tn  no  country  are  the  faces  of  the 
people  furrowed  with  harder  lines  of  care,"  wrote  one  sympa- 
thetic observer.  T!n  no  country  that  I  know  is  there  so  much  hard, 
toilsome,  unremitting  labor:  in  none  so  little  of  the  recreation  and 
enjoyment  of  life.  Work  and  worry  eat  out  the  heart  of  the 
people,  and  they  die  before  their  time.  ...  It  is  seldom  that  an 

Lithographed  cover  of  a  music  sheet  of  1836.  Courtesy  of  the  New  York 
Historical  Society. 

Dr.  Rich's  Institute  for  Physical  Education 

About  1850.  J.  Clarence  Davies  Collection,  Museum  of  the  City  of  New  York. 
A  Picnic  on  the  Wissahickon 

Engraving  by  Rawdon,  Wright  and  Hatch  after  a  drawing  by  William 
Croome.  Graham's  American  Monthly  Magazine,  1844. 


American  retires  from  business  to  enjoy  his  fortune  in  comfort 
Money-making  becomes  a  habit.  He  works  because  he  has  always 
worked,  and  knows  no  other  way." 5 

The  Almighty  Dollar  cast  its  long  shadow  over  the  land.  With 
depressing  unanimity  the  host  of  English  travelers  who  examined 
American  democracy  in  the  1830*s  and  1840's  found  us  too  ab- 
sorbed in  work's  daily  routine  to  recognize  any  other  phase  of 
life.  Never  has  criticism  on  this  score  been  more  general  or  per- 
sistent. Frances  Trollope,  Basil  Hall,  Thomas  Hamilton,  Frances 
Wright,  and  Charles  Dickens— they  all  rang  the  changes  on  the 
same  tune.  Our  only  pleasure  was  business,  our  only  amusement 
making  money.  Arriving  at  New  Orleans  at  the  time  of  that  city's 
colorful  Mardi  Gras,  Sir  Charles  Lyell  breathed  a  sigh  of  relief 
to  find  at  last  some  signs  of  gaiety  in  the  United  States.  "From 
the  time  we  landed  in  New  England  to  this  hour,"  he  wrote,  "we 
seemed  to  have  been  in  a  country  where  all,  whether  rich  or  poor, 
were  laboring  from  morning  till  night,  without  ever  indulging 
in  a  holiday."  6 

Frances  Trollope's  observations  were  colored  by  her  snobbish 
scorn  of  the  crudities  of  American  life,  but  with  all  proper  al- 
lowance for  prejudice  her  repeated  complaints  of  how  dull  she 
found  this  country  carry  conviction.  "We  are  by  no  means  as  gay 
as  our  lively  neighbors  on  the  other  side  of  the  Channel,"  she 
wrote,  "but  compared  with  Americans,  we  are  whirligigs  and 
teetotums;  every  day  is  a  holiday  and  every  night  a  festival."  She 
concluded  that  Americans  must  somehow  not  have  the  same 
need  of  being  amused  as  other  people— "they  may  be  the  wiser 
for  this,  perhaps,  but  it  makes  them  less  agreeable  to  a  looker- 

Dickens  was  greatly  depressed  by  a  point  of  view  which  not 
only  left  no  time  for  normal  recreation,  but  gave  a  businesslike 
efficiency  to  activity  outside  the  counting-house  as  well  as  within 
it.  Among  the  people  he  encountered  at  boarding-houses  and 
hotels,  in  stage-coaches  and  on  steamboats,  there  were  always  the 
same  rush  and  hurry.  We  may  look  back  upon  life  a  century  ago 


as  having  had  infinite  leisure,  but  it  was  already  marked  by 
quick  drinks  and  quick  lunches.  The  American  meal-hour  horri- 
fied Dickens:  "No  conversation,  no  laughter,  no  cheerfulness; 
no  sociality,  except  in  spitting;  and  that  is  done  in  silent  fellow- 
ship round  the  stove,  when  the  meal  is  over.  Every  man  sits 
down,  dull  and  languid;  swallows  his  fare  as  if  breakfasts,  din- 
ners, and  suppers,  were  necessities  of  nature  never  to  be  coupled 
with  recreation  or  enjoyment;  and  having  bolted  his  food  in  a 
gloomy  silence  bolts  himself,  in  the  same  state/*8 

Our  English  visitor  wandered  forth  from  his  hotel  to  observe 
the  habits  of  the  frenetic  dollar-chasers  of  New  Yoik.  "But  how 
quiet  the  streets  are!  Are  there  no  itinerant  bands;  no  wind  or 
stringed  instruments?  No,  not  one.  By  day  are  there  no  Punches, 
Fantocinne,  Dancing  Dogs,  Jugglers,  Conjurers,  Orchestrinas,  or 
even  Barrel-organs?  No,  not  one.  Yes,  I  remember  one,  one 
barrel-organ  and  a  dancing  monkey,  sportive  by  nature,  but  fast 
fading  into  a  dull,  lumpish  monkey  of  the  Utilitarian  school. 
Beyond  that,  nothing  lively;  no,  not  so  much  as  a  white  mouse 
in  a  twirling  cage* 

"Are  there  no  amusements?  Yes,  there  is  a  lecture  room  across 
the  way,  from  which  that  glare  of  light  proceeds,  and  there  may 
be  evening  service  for  the  ladies  there  thrice  a  week,  or  oftener. 
For  the  young  gentlemen,  there  is  the  counting-house,  the  store, 
the  bar-room.  .  .  ."  9 

THE  MOKAL  APPROVAL  given  this  attitude  served  the  same  end  as 
had  Puritanism's  support  of  the  early  colonial  laws  in  detestation 
of  idleness.  The  reawakening  that  succeeded  the  skepticism  and 
apathy  of  the  close  of  the  eighteenth  century  made  the  period 
one  of  intense  religious  interest,  and  nowhere  was  it  more 
strongly  manifest  than  in  its  influence  on  recreation.  A  new  gen- 
eration of  spiritual  leaders  took  up  arms  against  any  broadening 
whatsoever  of  the  field  of  amusements.  They  preached  the  sinful- 
ness  of  idle  pleasure  with  a  fierce  intolerance.  Their  prohibitions 


were  most  effective  among  those  who  actually  had  little  chance 
to  enjoy  many  diversions,  again  demonstrating  the  close  relation- 
ship between  reform  and  economic  environment;  but  they  af- 
fected all  classes.  The  influence  of  the  church  largely  determined 
the  public  attitude. 

The  full  force  of  religious  disapproval  was  thrown  against  the 
struggling  theatre.  President  Dwight  of  Yale  flatly  declared  that 
"to  indulge  a  taste  for  playgoing  means  nothing  more  nor  less 
than  the  loss  of  that  most  valuable  treasure  the  immortal  soul." 10 
The  church  generally  condemned  commercial  amusement,  what- 
ever its  form,  as  "the  door  to  all  the  sinks  of  iniquity,"  an  atti- 
tude clearly  revealing  its  complete  failure  to  realize  that  a  people 
growing  further  away  from  the  simpler  pastimes  of  an  agri- 
cultural civilization  had  to  have  some  substitute  for  them.  As 
late  as  1844  Henry  Ward  Beecher  singled  out  for  attack,  with  a 
vitriolic  bitterness  reminiscent  of  Cotton  Mather,  the  stage,  the 
concert-hall,  and  the  circus.  He  made  no  distinctions.  Any  one 
who  pandered  to  the  new  taste  for  entertainment  was  a  moral 
assassin.  The  fate  awaiting  this  enemy  of  society  was  certain:  "As 
borne  on  the  blast  thy  guilty  spirit  whistles  towards  the  gates  of 
hell,  the  hideous  shrieks  of  those  whom  thy  hand  hath  destroyed, 
shall  pierce  thee—helTs  first  welcome." X1 

The  pulpit's  wholesale  denouncement  of  pleasure  was  more 
typical  of  New  England,  but  other  parts  of  the  country  also  felt 
the  heavy  hand  of  puritan  repression.  The  evangelical  churches 
everywhere  banned  the  race-course  and  all  games  of  chance, 
forbade  card-playing  in  whatever  guise,  and  disapproved  severely 
of  dancing.  Nineteenth-century  Presbyterians,  Baptists,  and 
Methodists,  gathering  thousands  of  converts  into  their  folds  as 
they  went  south  along  the  mountain  ridges  and  then  spread 
westward  into  the  Mississippi  Valley,  reimposed  many  of  the 
prohibitions  of  seventeenth-century  Calvinists.  In  some  sections 
the  Middle  West  was  to  become  more  New  England  than  New 
England  itself. 

In  these  circumstances  another  phenomenon  of  seventeenth- 


century  life  was  repeated  in  the  growing  towns  and  cities  of 
nineteenth-century  America.  The  saloon  and  grog-shop  became 
more  than  ever  the  workingman's  club  as  urban  life  cut  him  off 
from  other  emotional  outlets.  Heavy  drinking  was  a  widely  preva- 
lent habit.  It  played  a  r61e  fully  as  important  as  it  had  in  colonial 
days,  and  had  more  serious  consequences.  It  was  the  common 
belief  of  English  visitors  that  a  man  could  get  drunk  twice  in 
America  for  sixpence— and  usually  did.12 

In  their*  efforts  to  suppress  intemperance  the  reformers  made 
no  attempt  to  find  a  substitute  for  the  saloon.  Anne  Royall  once 
argued  that  establishment  of  theatres  might  be  the  means  of  sav- 
ing the  people  "from  the  effects  of  an  evil  which  seems  to 
threaten  their  morals  with  a  total  overthrow/' 1S  but  no  one  lis- 
tened. The  church  easily  fell  in  with  the  attitude  of  the  merchant- 
manufacturer  class,  whose  sole  objective  was  to  get  as  much 
work  as  possible  out  of  its  employees.  The  theory  here  was  that 
drinking  was  the  result  of  idleness,  and  consequently  long  hours 
of  labor  should  be  maintained  for  the  sake  of  the  wage-earners* 
moral  welfare.  They  should  not  be  allowed  time  for  anything 
else.  Spokesmen  of  religion  turned  a  deaf  ear  to  labor's  con- 
tention that  the  intolerable  burden  of  a  twelve-  or  fourteen-hour 
day  compelled  some  "excitement  fully  proportioned  to  the  de- 
pression," which  under  existing  circumstances  could  be  found 
only  in  drinking.  They  gave  full  support  to  the  new  order  of  in- 
dustrialists in  upholding  "the  wholesome  discipline  of  factory 

Nor  was  there  any  toleration  of  recreation  on  the  one  day  in 
the  week  on  which  workers  were  free.  The  old  issue  of  Sabbath 
observance  was  revived.  At  the  close  of  the  eighteenth  century 
a  marked  weakening  of  Puritan  restrictions  had  taken  place.  Even 
in  Boston  travelers  reported  that  the  townspeople  had  in  great 
measure  lost  "that  rigidity  of  manners  and  vigilant  way  of  keep- 
ing Sunday"  which  had  formerly  characterized  New  England.15 
But  as  the  nineteenth  century  progressed,  many  of  the  old  bans 
were  reapplied.  No  sports  or  games  were  allowed  on  the  Lord's 


Day,  let  alone  public  amusements.  Travel  was  no  longer  per- 
mitted. In  many  states  even  the  Government  mails  were  stopped. 
Public  opinion,  if  not  actual  laws,  decreed  church  attendance  as 
the  only  permissible  Sunday  activity. 

"In  1800,"  Emerson  Davis  wrote  in  mid-century,  "good  men 
slumbered  over  the  desecration  of  the  Sabbath.  They  have  since 
awoke."  16  This  simply  meant  that  on  this  count  the  harsh  rule  of 
the  Puritans  was  firmly  refastened  upon  the  country—  "all  was 
solemn  and  drear.  Laughter  was  considered  irreverent.**  1T  It  has 
taken  almost  a  century  for  Sunday  bonds  to  become  sufficiently 
relaxed  to  sanction  normal  recreation, 

Deprived  of  support  from  the  more  responsible  elements  of 
society  because  of  the  church's  attitude,  public  entertainment 
often  fell  into  the  hands  of  those  who  on  occasion  did  not  hesi- 
tate to  pander  to  the  lowest  order  of  popular  taste.  This  in  turn 
aroused  further  opposition  to  commercial  amusements.  The  vi- 
cious circle  continued  until  social  leaders  began  to  recognize  the 
importance  of  recreation  in  the  national  life,  accepting  the  fact 
that  in  what  was  becoming  an  urban  society,  it  necessarily  had  to 
be  organized,  and  often  placed  on  a  commercial  basis. 

ANOTHER  FACTOR  serving  at  times  to  discourage  the  growth  of 
amusements  as  such  was  a  nation-wide  cultural  reawakening 
which  affected  all  classes.  The  1830's  and  1840's  were  an  age  of 
intense  activity  along  many  lines.  American  thought  was  going 
through  a  period  of  ferment  which  was  expressed  by  a  keen  and 
active  interest  in  things  of  the  mind  and  spirit.  New  concepts 
of  democracy,  of  humanitarianism,  of  the  brotherhood  of  man, 
were  in  the  air.  Among  the  factory  workers  there  was  often 
strong  disapproval  of  the  recreational  use  of  even  such  little 
leisure  as  they  commanded  because  of  an  unusual  sense  of  civic 

When  labor  urged  the  reduction  of  the  working-day  from  the 
prevailing  twelve  and  fourteen  hours  to  ten,  it  did  not  assert  any 


claim  for  time  to  play.  "All  men  have  a  just  right,  derived  from 
their  creator,"  a  resolution  of  the  Journeymen  Carpenters  of 
Philadelphia  stated  in  1827,  "to  have  a  sufficient  time  in  each 
day  for  the  cultivation  of  their  mind  and  for  self -improvement; 
Therefore,  resolved,  that  we  think  ten  hours  industriously  em- 
ployed are  sufficient  for  a  day's  labor.**  "Let  the  mechanic's  labour 
be  over  when  he  has  wrought  ten  or  twelve  hours  in  the  long 
days  of  summer,"  reads  another  piece  of  propaganda,  "and  he 
will  be  able  to  return  to  his  family  in  season,  and  with  sufficient 
vigour,  to  pass  some  hours  in  the  instruction  of  his  children,  or  in 
the  improvement  of  his  own  mind." 18 

With  this  strong  feeling  of  the  importance  of  self -education 
and  widespread  interest  in  intellectual  matters,  a  great  vogue 
developed  for  public  lectures.  The  lyceum  movement,  bringing 
public  speakers  to  every  town  throughout  the  country,  spread 
rapidly.  It  was  started  in  1826.  Five  years  later  a  national  or- 
ganization was  formed  with  some  nine  hundred  local  lyceums.19 
They  provided  a  platform  for  speakers  on  every  conceivable 
topic— history,  philosophy,  and  geology;  women's  rights,  prison 
reform,  insane  asylums;  temperance  and  abolition.  Sir  Charles 
Lyell  was  astounded  in  the  1840's  to  find  the  general  public 
rushing  to  the  lecture  as  they  might  formerly  have  done  to  a 
play;  Philip  Hone  observed  with  amazement  that  in  New  York 
the  craze  had  left  the  theatres  flat  on  their  backs.20 

Many  of  our  foreign  visitors  spoke  of  the  worJdngmen  audi- 
ences at  these  lectures.  They  were  especially  noted  in  New 
England,  and  one  of  the  most  striking  instances  of  cultural  en- 
thusiasm was  found  at  the  cotton-mills  of  Lowell,  Massachusetts. 
Its  atmosphere  was  far  from  typical  of  most  manufacturing 
towns,  and  even  here  the  roseate  picture  drawn  by  foreigners 
was  greatly  exaggerated.  Nevertheless,  the  great  majority  of  the 
workers  were  self-respecting  country  girls,  serious  and  intelligent. 
Their  attitude  may  be  taken  as  a  symbol  of  the  zest  for  knowl- 

In  Lowell  reading  is  the  only  recreation,"  wrote  Michael 


Chevalier; 21  Professor  Peabody  of  Harvard  found  his  lecture- 
room  crowded  with  factory  operatives  who  laid  aside  their  books 
only  to  take  notes  on  his  talk; 22  and  Dickens,  visiting  the  city  in 
1842,  was  impressed  by  three  facts:  "Firstly,  there  is  a  joint  stock 
piano  in  a  great  many  of  the  boarding  houses.  Secondly,  nearly 
all  the  young  people  subscribe  to  circulating  libraries.  Thirdly, 
they  have  got  among  themselves  a  periodical  called  The  Lowell 
Offering."  2S  This  publication  exuded  the  factory  town's  lofty  spirit 
There  was  the  story  of  Abby's  first  year  in  the  mills:  "She  grati- 
fied no  feeling  but  a  newly  awakened  desire  for  mental  improve- 
ment, and  spent  her  leisure  hours  in  reading  useful  books."  24 

In  many  instances  the  public  crowded  the  lecture-hall  with 
less  elevated  motives  than  self -education.  George  Combe,  lec- 
turing on  the  popular  fad  of  phrenology,  freely  admitted  that 
"entertainment  and  excitement,  as  much  as  instruction,"  drew 
the  crowds  that  nightly  attended  his  lectures  in  Boston.25  And 
there  was  even  less  pretense  of  culture  in  the  audiences  that 
gathered  to  hear  the  ever-popular  spiritualists,  hypnotists,  mes- 
merists, psychometrists,  hydropathists. ...  A  woman  speaker  ad- 
vertised a  lecture  on  animal  magnetism  in  which  she  would 
painlessly  draw  die  teeth  of  any  person  who  so  desired,  and  a  lec- 
turer on  mesmerism  promised  to  operate  on  the  entire  audience 
and  produce  a  variety  of  results  in  trance  and  catalepsy.  This 
was  clearly  entertainment  as  much  as  concert-hall  or  theatre. 
Philip  Hone  considered  it  of  an  even  lower  order,  but  commented 
philosophically,  "the  people  will  be  amused." 

Nevertheless  the  serious  purpose  that  lay  behind  this  vogue  for 
lectures  was  their  important  feature.  It  reflected  the  idealistic 
belief  that  in  a  democracy  all  citizens  should  be  able  to  take  an 
intelligent  part  in  the  conduct  of  government.  They  should  be 
educated  to  fulfil  their  social  obligations.  Self -improvement  was 
not  a  selfish  goal:  it  was  a  responsibility  of  citizenship.  In  the 
awakening  desire  of  democracy  to  play  a  full  r61e  in  public 
affairs,  the  need  for  a  wide  diffusion  of  knowledge  seemed 


In  considering  popular  lectures,  in  this  or  other  periods,  it  is 
never  possible  to  draw  a  hard  and  fast  line  between  education 
and  entertainment  In  most  cases  both  elements  were  present 
The  lecture  craze  of  the  1840*5,  however,  had  the  full  support 
of  all  those  who  felt  it  was  sinful  to  use  leisure  solely  for  enjoy- 
ment. For  that  reason  it  was  an  important  phenomenon  both  in 
itself  and  because  of  its  retarding  influence  on  the  growth  of 
amusements  which  could  make  no  cultural  claims. 

THE  STATUS  of  women  in  the  social  life  of  the  nineteenth  century 
also  had  a  very  definite  bearing  on  recreation.  Prevailing  con- 
cepts of  the  proper  relationship  to  be  maintained  between  the 
sexes  were  a  barrier  which,  apart  from  all  other  considerations, 
prevented  the  natural  development  of  many  forms  of  diversion. 
They  gave  an  atmosphere  of  artificial  restraint  to  ordinary  social 
functions.  For  long  they  made  it  almost  impossible  for  men 
and  women  to  enjoy  together  any  outdoor  activities.  And  it  was 
not  only  that  there  was  less  freedom  in  social  intercourse  than 
there  is  to-day.  Popular  ideas  on  the  delicacy  of  females—  a  basic 
canon  of  the  mid-nineteenth  century—  and  an  almost  morbid 
prudery  meant  a  more  restricted  life  for  women  than  in  the 
eighteenth  century.  In  colonial  days  they  had  been  able  to  enter 
"far  more  fully  into  both  the  work  and  the  recreation  of  men. 
They  took  part  in  the  farm  festivals  and  holiday  celebrations; 
they  enjoyed  as  spectators  if  not  as  actual  participants  whatever 
amusements  were  available.  But  now  women  were  more  and 
more  condemned  to  a  life  separate  and  apart. 
.  It  was  a  man's  world,  with  its  tremendous  emphasis  on  work 
and  getting  ahead.  Young  people  were  allowed  great  liberty. 
"They  dance,  sing,  walk  and  run  in  sleighs  together,  by  sunshine 
and  moonshine,"  wrote  Frances  Wright,  "without  the  occurrence 
or  even  the  apprehension  of  any  impropriety."26  But  this  dis- 
pensation was  short-lived.  "Once  married,"  another  contempo- 
rary observer  reported,  "the  young  lady  entirely  changes  her 


habits.  Farewell  gaiety  and  frivolity." 2T  Whatever  their  position 
in  society,  women  were  expected  to  devote  themselves  wholly 
to  the  duties  of  domestic  life.  Visitors  from  abroad  often  singled 
this  out  as  a  bizarre  and  unexpected  aspect  of  the  American 
scene.  The  sparkling  Fanny  Kemble  found  it  impossible  to  con- 
form to  such  a  narrow  tradition  after  her  own  American  mar- 
riage. Frances  Trollope  was  incensed  at  an  attitude  which  so 
closely  restrained  those  of  her  sex. 

If  they  had  any  leisure,  the  ladies  took  up  embroidery,  paint- 
ing on  glass  or  china,  and  waxwork—with  commendable  perse- 
verance and  devastating  results.  But  they  kept  indoors,  and 
everything  else,  including  health,  was  sacrificed  to  incredible  stand- 
ards of  proper  female  decorum.  Viewing  the  results,  Thomas 
Hamilton  mourned  that  "at  one  or  two-and-twenty,  the  bloom  of 
an  American  lady  is  gone,  and  the  more  substantial  materials  of 
beauty  follow  soon  after.  At  thirty  the  whole  fabric  is  in  decay, 
and  nothing  remains  but  the  tradition  of  former  conquests/* 2S 
Delicacy  became  the  hall-mark  of  gentility,  the  sign  and  symbol 
(as  the  Chinese  mandarin's  long  finger-nails)  of  freedom  from 
manual  labor.  It  was  not,  indeed,  a  general  characteristic.  By  far 
the  larger  number  of  women  could  not  afford  delicacy:  their 
household  work  would  not  permit  it.  But  it  was  the  goal  toward 
which  they  all  aspired,  and  the  dominant  male  encouraged  it.  It 
contributed  to  his  own  sense  of  importance  and  established  social 

The  few  attempts  that  were  made  to  persuade  women  to  take 
outdoor  recreation  illustrate  this  general  attitude  even  more 
pointedly.  In  mid-century  there  was  a  revival  of  skating  which 
brought  out  thousands  to  country  ponds  and  city  rinks.  During 
twenty-seven  days  of  good  ice  in  one  season,  over  two  hundred 
thousand  skaters  were  estimated  to  have  visited  the  lakes  of  New 
York's  new  Central  Park;  excursion  trains  daily  carried  from  a 
thousand  to  fifteen  hundred  Boston  enthusiasts  to  Jamaica 
Pond.29  It  was  urged  as  a  suitable  sport  for  both  sexes.  But  the 
female  skater  was  advised  in  one  such  appeal  to  take  fast  hold 

A  Family  Party  Playing  at  Fox  and  Geese 

Drawing  by  Winslow  Homer.  Ballou's  Pictorial  Drawing-Room 
Companion,  1857. 

The  Dance  after  the  Husking 
Harper's  Weekly,  1858. 


o£  the  coat  tails  of  her  gentleman  partner,  for  then,  "if  he  was 
a  dextrous  glider,  and  she  maintained  a  firm  position,  a  gay  time 
she  could  have  of  it  enjoying  all  the  pleasure  without  incurring 
any  of  the  fatigue  of  the  exercise."  30 

One  English  visitor  who  greatly  missed  feminine  society  as  he 
traveled  about  America,  Captain  Basil  Hall,  reported  sadly  that 
he  had  positively  never  once  seen  "anything  approaching  within 
many  degrees  to  what  we  should  call  a  flirtation/7  His  lively  wife 
confirmed  his  impression  that  there  was  "a  great  separation  be- 
tween the  ladies  and  gentlemen  in  society  here."  They  found 
few  women  at  the  theatre  in  New  York  or  at  the  race-track  in 
Charleston;  even  at  dances,  hardly  possible  without  some  recog- 
nition of  females,  the  two  sexes  "appeared  to  be  entire  strangers 
to  each  other."  At  a  country  fair  at  Brighton,  Massachusetts,  only 
nine  women  were  counted  in  a  crowd  of  several  thousand.  Cap- 
tain Hall  heard  some  music  and  rushed  excitedly  to  the  spot. 
"What  was  there?— four  men  dancing  a  reel." 81 

He  was  taken  to  task,  however,  by  a  dissenting  English  ob- 
server for  the  conclusions  he  drew  from  this  incident.  James 
Stuart  explained  the  absence  of  women  at  the  Brighton  Fair. 
"For  very  obvious  reasons,"  he  pointed  out  quietly,  "it  would 
be  reckoned  a  breach  of  delicacy  in  Britain  for  ladies  to  attend 
cattle-shows." 82 

The  prudery  of  the  period  to  which  Queen  Victoria  has  lent 
her  unblemished  name  may  be  interpreted  as  both  cause  and 
consequence  of  this  failure  of  men  and  women  to  associate  more 
naturally  in  their  everyday  life.  When  modesty  and  decorum 
were  carried  to  such  lengths  that  an  English  book  of  etiquette 
adapted  for  publication  in  the  United  States  could  state  "that, 
in  America,  female  delicacy  has  become  morbid," 88  one  could 
hardly  expect  society  to  be  as  lively  and  gay  as  it  had  once  been. 
It  is  not  necessary  to  take  overseriously  such  tales  as  Captain 
Marryat's  account  of  his  visit  to  the  home  of  Edward  Everett, 
where  he  found  a  statue  of  the  Apollo  Belvidere  carefully  draped 
and  the  legs  of  the  piano  "in  modest  little  trousers,  with  frills  at 


the  bottom  of  them."  S4  One  may  largely  discount  Mrs.  Trollope's 
amazing  stories  o£  flounces  painted  on  immodest  sign-post  milk- 
maids, the  ostracism  of  a  man  who  used  the  word  "corset"  in 
mixed  company,  and  the  consternation  of  tihe  young  girl  in  a 
boarding-house  who,  unexpectedly  encountering  a  member  of 
the  other  sex,  ran  from  the  room  screaming  "A  man!  A  manl  A 
man  35  P  Nevertheless  the  artificial  restraints  growing  out  of  such 
prudishness  had  a  depressing  effect.  Men  could  not  help  feeling 
more  at  ease  when  alone  with  other  men.  Recreation  lost  some- 
thing which  only  the  participation  of  women  could  give  it 

THESE  WERE  the  influences  which  served  to  make  the  American 
scene  so  dull  in  the  first  half  of  the  nineteenth  century.  Serious- 
ness of  purpose  was  heightened  by  strong  religious  feeling;  the 
average  man  locked  himself  in  his  office  and  his  wife  in  his  home. 
But  the  forces  let  loose  by  the  growth  of  cities  and  the  rise  of  a 
new  working  class  could  not  be  withstood.  The  demand  of  the 
urban  democracy  for  amusements  to  take  the  place  of  the  rural 
pastimes  they  could  no  longer  enjoy  was  too  insistent.  Mrs. 
Trollope  notwithstanding,  the  American  people  had  the  same 
need  for  being  amused  as  the  people  of  any  other  nation.  The 
development  of  new  forms  of  entertainment  could  not  be  per- 
manently stayed  for  all  the  prejudice  and  opposition  of  those 
social  forces  which  disapproved  of  them. 

So  it  was  that  this  period  of  repression  was  actually  marked 
by  the  beginning  and  gradual  expansion  of  popular  amusements 
which  have  ever  since  played  an  increasingly  important  part  in 
our  recreational  life.  The  first  half  of  the  nineteenth  century 
witnessed  the  growth  of  the  theatre  as  entertainment  reaching 
out  to  all  classes  of  people.  It  saw  the  beginnings  of  variety, 
minstrel  shows,  and  the  circus;  the  establishment  of  amusement 
parks,  public  dance-halls,  concert-saloons  and  beer-gardens;  a 
revival  of  horse-racing  and  the  rise  of  other  spectator  sports.  By 
the  Civil  War  the  nation  was  in  the  midst  of  those  far-reaching 


changes  in  the  recreational  scene  which  were  a  natural  corollary 
of  the  broader  social  changes  through  which  it  was  passing. 

The  new  amusements  may  not  have  been  as  healthful  and  in- 
nocent as  those  they  replaced.  They  were  generally  something 
to  be  watched  rather  than  enjoyed  through  active  participation. 
But  in  opposing  them  so  indiscriminately  the  confused  reformers 
of  the  day  were  combating  something  essential  for  a  society 
shaped  by  nineteenth-century  industrialism.  Despite  prejudice 
and  opposition  from  so  many  quarters,  a  new  America,  a  fum- 
bling, often  inept  democracy,  was  feeling  its  way  toward  a 
fuller,  more  satisfying  life  for  the  masses  of  its  people. 


of  the  day,  the  theatre  was  forging  steadily  ahead  after  1800. 
It  was  attempting  to  establish  itself  by  pleasing  all  classes,  and 
with  this  end  in  view  the  playhouses  of  the  period  welcomed 
everything  on  their  hospitable  stages  with  delightful  indiscrimi- 
nation. A  century  ago  the  same  house  might  advertise  Junius 
Brutus  Booth  in  Hamlet  on  one  night,  the  "Original,  Aboriginal, 
Erratic,  Operatic,  Semi-Civilized  and  Demi-Savage  Extravaganza 
of  Pocohontas"  on  the  next,  and  on  the  third  an  equestrian  melo- 
drama with  a  cast  of  circus  performers  playing  on  horseback.  A 
single  evening  often  produced  almost  as  varied  theatrical  fare, 
Macbeth,  a  daring  French  ballet,  and  perhaps  such  a  popular  and 
rowdy  farce  as  My  Young  Wife  and  the  Old  Umbrella,  making 
up  the  program.  The  theatre,  that  is,  was  a  democratic  institution, 
playing  a  r&le  which  in  later  years  it  largely  surrendered,  first  to 
the  vaudeville  stage  and  then  to  the  moving  picture. 

The  trend  was  steadily  away  from  Shakespeare  and  toward 
more  farce  and  variety.  But  the  function  of  the  theatre  before  the 
days  of  vaudeville,  let  alone  those  of  the  movies,  made  this  nat- 
ural. "The  rapid  increase  in  population  in  newly  formed  cities," 
wrote  an  observant  visiting  actor,  William  Davidge,  "produces  a 
style  of  patrons  whose  habits  and  associations  afford  no  oppor- 
tunity for  the  cultivation  of  the  arts."  *  When  the  craze  for  lectures 
in  the  1840's  drew  off  the  theatre's  more  sophisticated  patrons, 
there  was  even  greater  need  to  meet  the  populace's  demand  for 
undiluted  entertainment  "Opera  and  burlesque,  the  melodrama 
and  the  ballet,"  sighed  one  critic,  "have  literally  swallowed  up  the 



legitimate  drama.  .  .  .  We  are  not  a  theatrical  people."  2  But  this 
was  a  prejudiced  view.  In  its  growth  and  development  in  these 
years  the  theatre  was  merely  reflecting  those  diverse  and  contra- 
dictory impulses  which  animated  American  democracy  in  its 
awkward  age. 

UPON  THEIR  BETUBN  from  exile  after  the  Revolution,  the  English 
actors  who  had  introduced  the  theatre  to  America  struggled 
against  heavy  odds.  There  was  always  puritanic  prejudice,  but 
for  a  time  colonial  traditions  also  led  to  the  theatre's  being  vigor- 
ously attacked  as  an  aristocratic,  un-American  institution.  It  was 
declared  an  enemy  of  true  republican  principles,  a  foe  to  democ- 
racy. The  giddy  ideas  of  the  stage  could  not  be  reconciled  with 
the  virtue  which  was  the  true  basis  of  the  freedom  so  lately  won 
on  revolutionary  battlefields.  And  it  undermined  public  morals. 
"At  present,"  shouted  an  irate  speaker  in  the  Pennsylvania  legis- 
lature, ^play-writers  are  held  at  liberty,  when  they  wish  to  throw 
their  audiences  into  fits  of  laughter,  to  make  a  smutty  joke,  throw 
the  ladies  into  confusion,  and  give  the  jessamies  a  chance  of 
tittering  to  show  their  teeth"  * 

Nevertheless  the  theatre  quickly  gained  a  foothold.  It  could 
not  hope  to  win  full  popular  approval  with  the  church  thunder- 
ing against  it  as  the  Devil's  workshop,  but  before  the  close  of 
the  eighteenth  century  it  had  at  least  broken  through  official 
prohibitions  which  might  have  completely  barred  it.  After  long 
debate  the  battle  may  fairly  be  said  to  have  been  won  when 
the  newly  built  Chestnut  Street  Theatre  opened  in  Philadelphia 
in  1794  with  the  legend  carved  over  its  door,  The  Eagle  Suffers 
Little  Birds  to  Sing."  In  the  meantime  the  old  John  Street 
Theatre,  soon  to  be  replaced  by  the  first  Park  Theatre,  had  won 
a  popular  following  in  New  York,  and  after  furtive  ventures  into 
the  dangerous  territory  of  Boston  under  the  guise  of  moral  lec- 
tures, the  theatre  was  even  admitted  within  the  sacred  precincts 
of  Puritanism.4 


For  some  two  decades  these  three  cities  were  almost  the  only 
ones  supporting  the  stage,  and  in  each  instance  a  single  play- 
house dominated  the  scene.  Only  gradually  was  the  theatre  able 
to  extend  its  scope  and  become  a  national  institution. 

Albany  had  a  surprisingly  long  theatrical  tradition,  John  Ber- 
nard managing  the  company  there  at  the  opening  of  the  nine- 
teenth century.  Near-by  Rochester  was  hardly  as  hospitable.  "It 
is  really  astonishing  to  think  that  the  trustees  of  so  respectable  a 
village,'*  its  newspaper  declared  in  1828,  "should  permit  such  a 
disorderly  place  as  the  theatre."  In  New  England  we  find  a  troupe 
of  Boston  players  visiting  Salem  in  1792,  but  its  theatre  lan- 
guished and  died,  for  the  townspeople  "found  it  a  much  more 
profitable  mode  of  spending  their  time  and  money,  to  hear  lec- 
tures on  interesting  and  useful  subjects."  James  Silk  Buckingham 
reported  a  theatre  as  far  afield  as  Bangor,  Maine,  in  1840,  com- 
menting, however,  that  as  in  all  provincial  towns  it  was  not  at- 
tended by  the  better  class  of  people.5 

The  South  was  far  more  receptive,  as  it  had  been  in  colonial 
days.  Before  there  were  any  real  playhouses  in  New  England 
outside  of  Boston,  theatres  had  been  established  in  all  the  prin- 
cipal southern  cities  from  Baltimore  to  Savannah.  The  West  too 
was  cordial.  Soon  after  the  War  of  1812  a  company  of  players 
brought  together  by  Samuel  Drake,  an  English  actor  who  had 
been  playing  with  Bernard's  company  in  Albany,  made  its  ad- 
venturous way  to  Kentucky  by  wagon  and  flatboat  Soon  what 
was  still  the  pioneer  country  of  trans-Appalachia  was  dotted  with 
theatre  towns.6 

The  theatrical  circuit  by  the  fourth  decade  of  the  century  is 
illustrated  by  the  tour  of  Tyrone  Power,  the  Irish  comedian. 
From  his  first  engagement  at  the  Park  in  New  York,  now  the 
country's  amusement  capital  with  half  a  dozen  playhouses,  he 
went  to  Philadelphia,  where  he  played  at  the  Chestnut  Street 
and  the  Walnut  Street.  Then  he  went  to  the  Tremont  in  Boston. 
Starting  on  a  southern  tour,  he  visited  Baltimore,  Washington, 
Alexandria,  Charleston,  Savannah,  and  Columbus.  There  were 


engagements  also  at  New  Orleans,  Mobile,  and  Natchez,  and 
back  again  in  the  North  somewhat  later,  at  Albany/  These  were 
the  more  accessible  theatres.  Those  in  St.  Louis  and  Cincinnati 
were  also  important,  and  before  mid-century  the  roster  included 
cities  as  far  west  as  Dubuque,  Iowa.  In  all,  more  than  fifty  estab- 
lished stock  companies  scattered  throughout  the  country  marked 
the  theatre's  half -century  advance.8 

An  outstanding  characteristic  of  the  playhouses  of  this  period, 
in  contrast  to  theatres  of  the  legitimate  stage  in  the  twentieth 
century,  was  their  immense  size.  The  second  Park  Theatre  in 
New  York,  opening  in  1821,  provided  accommodations  in  its 
great  yawning  pit,  three  tiers  of  boxes,  and  top  gallery  for  2,500 
persons;  the  Bowery,  bursting  upon  a  startled  world  a  few  years 
later  with  all  the  magnificence  of  gas-lights,  held  3,500;  and  in 
another  decade  the  Broadway  advertised  seats  for  4,000.  Theatres 
in  other  cities  were  not  quite  as  big  as  these  New  York  houses, 
but  they  too  were  far  larger  than  the  average  to-day.9 

They  were  large  because  of  the  theatre's  appeal  to  the  masses, 
and,  once  built,  their  very  size  forced  them  to  cater  more  and 
more  to  the  general  public.  The  amusement  business  acted  on  the 
principle  of  volume  production  at  a  low  cost.  When  the  first 
Park  Theatre  opened  at  the  close  of  the  eighteenth  century,  ad- 
mission prices  were  $2.00  in  the  boxes,  $1.50  in  the  pit,  and  $1.00 
in  the  gallery.  Before  the  second  Park  closed  its  doors  fifty  years 
later,  these  prices  had  been  reduced  to  75  cents,  50  cents,  and 
S7K  cents.  The  more  general  scale  in  the  1840's  was  a  50-cent  top 
and  gallery  seats  for  12&  cents;10 

Under  these  conditions  the  theatre  could  not  in  any  sense  con- 
stitute the  comparatively  select  entertainment  it  had  been  in 
colonial  days  and  has  subsequently  become  again  through  the 
growth  of  other  forms  of  commercial  amusement.  It  was  taken 
over  by  "our  sovereigns"— as  the  conservatives  now  fearfully  des- 
ignated those  whom  they  had  formerly  complacently  dismissed 
as  "the  people  of  no  importance"— in  a  spirit  of  militant  democ- 
racy. Writing  of  the  theatres  even  in  conservative  Philadelphia, 


an  English  traveler  pointedly  observed  that  they  were  "not  much 
frequented  by  the  more  opulent  and  intelligent  classes,  but  sus- 
tained by  the  middle  and  humbler  ranks."*1  Society  might  re- 
main ensconced  in  the  boxes,  where  "elegant  and  well-dressed 
females"  could  look  disdainfully  down  on  the  crowd  below,  but  it 
was  the  common  man  who  ruled  the  show.  At  Mitchell's  Olympic 
in  New  York  the  "pit  was  exclusively  reserved  every  Saturday 
afternoon  for  newsboys  and  butcher-boys.12 

The  theatre's  democratic  appeal  is  further  illustrated  by  the 
popular  interest  shown  in  favorite  actors,  especially  by  the  ex- 
citement occasioned  when  some  player  offended  the  public.  The 
most  sensational  instance  of  this  was  the  famous  Astor  Place 
riot  in  1849,  which  grew  out  of  the  bitter  feud  between  Charles 
Macready,  the  English  tragedian,  and  Edwin  Forrest,  favorite 
of  the  American  stage.  The  populace  translated  a  professional 
quarrel  in  terms  of  English  aristocracy  versus  American  democ- 
racy, rallying  to  Forrest's  defense  in  behalf  of  their  "almighty 
independence."  New  York  was  plastered  with  posters  calling 
upon  worldngmen  to  decide  the  issue:  *We  advocate  no  violence, 
but  lawful  rights."  Influenced  by  such  appeals,  a  Bowery  mob 
stormed  the  theatre  where  Macready  was  playing;  the  troops 
were  called  out  to  restore  order,  and  before  the  affair  ended, 
twenty-two  persons  had  been  killed  and  a  large  number  wounded.13 

The  size  of  the  buildings  and  the  character  of  the  audiences 
combined  to  make  the  early  nineteenth-century  theatre  a  some- 
what appalling  place  according  to  modern  standards.  It  had  few 
of  the  comforts  to  which  the  polite  audiences  of  to-day  are  ac- 
customed. Women  stayed  away  quite  as  much  on  these  grounds 
as  from  moral  prejudice.  Nor  could  one  always  be  certain  that 
the  performance  would  be  allowed  to  proceed  in  peace.  Although 
Astor  Place  riots  might  be  exceptional,  special  police  had  always 
to  be  on  hand  to  preserve  order.  Theatre-going  a  century  ago 
had  about  it  certain  adventurous  aspects  which  are  now  lost. 

The  cold  was  a  great  discomfort  in  winter.  Wood-burning 
stoves  in  foyers  could  not  adequately  heat  such  huge,  barnlike 


structures,  and  though  box-holders  still  brought  their  own  char- 
coal foot-warmers  and  the  entire  audience  kept  on  coats  and 
hats,  there  was  no  really  satisfactory  way  of  keeping  comfort- 
able. The  audience  slowly  congealed,  and  the  actors  almost 
literally  froze.  The  various  lighting  systems  were  also  a  hazard. 
Candles  dripped  and  sputtered;  oil  lamps  hung  in  immense  chan- 
deliers smoked  unmercifully;  and  when  gas-lights  were  intro- 
duced, it  was  long  before  they  became  anywhere  nearly  satisfac- 
tory. Curtains  and  scenery  were  constantly  catching  on  fire,  and 
theatres  burned  down  with  distressing  regularity— thirty-three 
were  wholly  or  partially  destroyed  by  fire,  including  the  Park 
and  the  Chestnut  Street,  between  1798  and  1852.  The  old  Bowery 
burned  down  no  less  than  four  times  in  seventeen  years.  The 
worst  conflagration  of  the  period  was  the  burning  of  the  theatre 
in  Richmond,  Virginia,  in  1811  with  the  loss  of  some  seventy 
lives— a  catastrophe  interpreted  by  the  pious  as  a  judgment  of 

There  were  no  really  comfortable  seats  anywhere  in  the  house. 
The  boxes  were  like  pens  for  beasts,"  reads  a  contemporary 
description  of  the  Park15  The  benches  with  which  they  were 
fitted  were  no  more  than  scantily  upholstered  boards  with  nar- 
row, shoulder-high  backs,  and  they  were  so  closely  crowded  to- 
gether that  their  occupants  could  hardly  move.  Mrs.  Trollope 
has  a  lively  description  of  the  gentlemen  trying  to  get  comfort- 
able. Their  postures  were  "perfectly  indescribable,**  she  wrote; 
and  then  added  somewhat  cryptically,  Tieels  higher  than  the 
head,  the  entire  rear  of  the  person  presented  to  the  audience.9* 
It  was  also  this  observant  visitor  who  noted  a  lady  in  a  box  at  the 
Chatham  in  New  York,  "performing  the  most  maternal  office 

The  pit  was  far  worse  than  the  boxes,  with  its  backless  benches 
set  in  serried  rows  on  the  rough,  unswept  floor.  Women  were  not 
generally  allowed  in  this  section.  What  is  now  considered  the 
choice  part  of  the  theatre  would  be  crowded  with  a  conglomerate 
mass  of  men  who  left  on  their  hats,  took  off  their  coats,  and 


made  themselves  at  home  with  complete  disregard  of  the  more 
polite  amenities.  The  habit  of  standing  on  the  benches  and  spit- 
ting into  the  boxes  or  on  the  stage  was  deprecated,  a  writer  in 
the  New  "fork  Herald  satirically  approving  the  custom  at  Niblo's, 
where  a  gentleman  could  place  his  hat  on  the  floor  and  have  it 
serve  "as  a  spittoon  for  three  men  behind  him,  who  ingeniously 
spit  over  each  other's  shoulders." 17  The  audience  moved  about 
freely,  there  was  a  constant  cracking  and  crunching  of  peanuts, 
and  a  rank  odor  of  onions  and  whisky  rose  like  a  miasmic  cloud. 
"The  place  was  pervaded  by  evil  smells,"  the  description  of  the 
Park  states,  "and  not  uncommonly  in  the  midst  of  a  performance, 
rats  ran  out  of  the  holes  in  the  floor  and  across  into  the  or- 

The  top  gallery  was  shared  by  toughs,  Negroes,  and  prosti- 
tutes. Their  sections  were  railed  off,  and  to  add  to  the  con- 
geniality of  the  surroundings  there  was  usually  an  adjacent  bar. 
Approval  or  disapproval  of  the  play  was  most  vociferously  ex- 
pressed in  these  upper  reaches  of  the  theatre.  In  his  letters  to 
the  Morning  Chronicle  at  the  opening  of  the  century,  Washing- 
ton Irving  commented  feelingly  on  the  gallery  barrage  of  apples, 
nuts,  and  gingerbread,  and  its  continual  stamping,  roaring,  hiss- 
ing, and  whistling;19  The  police  kept  what  order  they  could,  but 
in  the  more  popular  houses  it  was  a  difficult  task— especially 
when  some  insulted  actor  broke  off  his  lines  to  step  to  the  front 
of  the  stage  and  tell  "the  dirty  blackguards"  just  what  lie  thought 
of  them.20 

Conditions  in  what  was  commonly  called  the  "third  tier"  were 
in  part  responsible  for  the  continued  opposition  of  church-goers 
to  the  stage.  They  were  no  less  condemned  by  the  better  man- 
agers. William  Dunlap— actor,  manager,  playwright,  historian— 
vehemently  protested  when  the  Federal  Street  Theatre  in  Boston 
allotted  this  special  section  of  the  theatre  to  "the  unfortunate 
females,"  as  he  gallantly  characterized  them,  "who  have  been  the 
victims  of  seduction."21  With  almost  puritan  restraint  Noah 
Miller  Ludlow  strictly  barred  both  liquor  and  prostitutes  from 

A  Society  Audience  at  the  Park  Theatre,  New  York 

Water-color  by  John  Searle,  November,  1822.  Courtesy  of  the  New  York 
Historical  Society. 


his  theatre  in  St.  Louis.22  Edmund  Simpson  made  the  same  ex- 
periment in  New  York  but  lost  so  considerable  a  part  of  his 
clientele  that  he  had  to  restore  to  the  third  tier  its  privileges. 

The  newspapers  often  took  occasion  to  condemn  these  cus- 
toms, but  their  disapproval  was  aimed  at  the  ladies*  display  of 
"their  meretricious  attractions,  before  the  very  faces  of  the  chaste 
part  of  the  audience,"  rather  than  at  their  presence  in  the  theatre. 
In  an  editorial  on  September  19,  1838,  the  New  Yorfc  Herdd 
reported  that  eighty-three  of  "the  most  profligate  and  abandoned 
women  that  ever  disgraced  humanity"  had  been  freely  mingling 
the  night  before  with  the  virtuous  and  respectable  at  the  Park. 
It  urged  the  citizens  of  New  York  not  to  take  their  wives  and 
daughters  to  this  theatre.  It  was  a  disgrace  to  society.  The  man- 
agement could  hope  to  win  back  popular  favor  only  "by  con- 
structing a  separate  entrance  for  the  abandoned  of  the  sex."  ** 

In  the  smaller  towns,  conditions  differed  very  markedly  from 
those  in  the  large  cities.  Their  theatres  could  not  expect  patron- 
age comparable  to  that  in  the  more  sophisticated  urban  com- 
munities, and  circumstances  often  compelled  the  staging  of 
performances  with  crude,  makeshift  scenery  which  made  heroic 
demands  upon  the  ingenuity  and  imagination  of  both  cast  and 
audience.  An  old  warehouse  or  barn  might  be  temporarily  con- 
verted into  a  theatre  by  the  erection  of  a  stage,  installation  of 
some  benches,  and  provision  of  a  few  makeshift  properties  and 
an  improvised  curtain.  Often  a  shop  or  a  tavern  dining-room 
served  even  more  informally  for  strolling  players.  Joseph  Jeffer- 
son, barnstorming  through  Illinois  in  its  pioneer  days,  described 
one  performance  in  an  old  barn  where  moonlight  and  candles 
provided  a  dramatic  atmosphere  for  the  production  of  The 
Spectre  Bridegroom.  Another  time  his  company  built  its  own 
theatre— a  shaky  structure  with  "the  appearance  of  a  large  dry- 
goods  box  with  a  roof  /*  A  young  lawyer  named  Abraham  Lincoln 
defended  the  players  on  this  occasion  against  the  town's  attempt 
to  impose  an  exorbitant  license  fee.24 

Traveling  players  on  the  western  circuit  experienced  one  of 


their  greatest  difficulties  in  finding  the  supers  necessary  for  a 
chorus.  Ludlow  tells  of  an  early  performance  of  Sheridan's 
Pizarro  before  an  audience  of  four  hundred  keel-boat  men  and 
foundry  workers  in  Pittsburgh  at  which  the  ceremony  of  the 
Virgins  of  the  Sun  presented  an  acute  problem.  Pittsburgh  of- 
fered no  virgins—  Ludlow  carefully  explains  that  of  course  he 
means  theatrical  virgins—  and  it  finally  became  necessary  to  fall 
back  on  an  old  Irish  cleaning  woman  and  the  property  man.  They 
same  on  the  stage  draped  in  cotton  gowns  and  gauze  veils,  and 
they  were  doing  very  well  indeed  until  a  piteous  groan  came 
from  the  audience,  *Oh!  what  virgins!"  There  was  an  immediate 
outburst  The  play  could  not  go  on  until  the  manager  stepped 
to  the  front  of  the  stage  and  rebuked  the  audience  for  insulting 
actors  who  had  come  so  many  miles  to  entertain  them.25 

Further  brilliant  inspiration  in  providing  supers  is  related  by 
Sol  Smith,  another  pioneer  of  the  western  circuit  who  formed  a 
partnership  with  Ludlow.  Again  it  was  Pizarro,  and  twenty-four 
Creek  Indians  were  engaged  to  play  the  parts  of  the  Peruvian 
soldiery.  They  were  given  50  cents  apiece  and  a  glass  of  whisky 
—  unf  ortunately,  paid  in  advance.  When  their  cue  was  given,  the 
Indians  broke  into  a  war-dance  with  the  greatest  enthusiasm. 
As  they  leapt  about  the  stage  brandishing  tomahawks  and  yell- 
ing at  the  top  of  their  voices,  the  frightened  virgins  of  the  cast 
fled  precipitancy  to  their  dressing-room.  The  Indians  had  driven 
every  one  off  the  stage  and  demolished  the  Temple  of  the  Sun 
before  they  could  be  quieted  down.26 

EXCEPT  in  a  few  of  the  houses  in  the  larger  cities,  the  stock  com- 
panies making  up  the  American  theatre  were  for  the  most  part 
composed  of  casual  collections  of  actors  and  actresses  whose 
histrionic  deficiencies  appear  to  have  been  monumental.  They 
seldom  knew  their  parts  completely,  although  the  frequent 
changes  of  plays  and  scant  rehearsals  provided  some  excuse  for 
this;  they  were  as  apt  as  not  to  disregard  all  stage  business;  and 


in  keeping  with  a  memorable  tradition  of  the  dramatic  profes- 
sion they  often  came  on  quite  drunk.  The  diverting  journal  of 
Hany  Watkins,  a  strolling  player  of  the  1850's,  reports  that  after 
reading  his  part  over  three  or  four  times,  he  often  went  on  stage 
knowing  as  much  as  any  one  in  the  cast.  Another  journal  entry 
speaks  of  "winging  a  part,"  or  going  on  in  complete  ignorance 
of  it.  Drunkenness  often  led  to  dramatic  quarrels.  There  was  the 
occasion  in  Louisville,  also  related  by  Watkins,  when  the  leading 
lady  chased  one  of  the  actors  off  the  stage  with  a  spear.  When  he 
tried  to  return,  she  renewed  the  attack  with  a  screw-driver, 
dramatically  screaming,  Tou  son  of  a  bitch,  die!**27 

The  theatre  was  really  sustained  by  a  handful  of  stars  who 
played  engagements  of  varying  lengths  in  the  eastern  cities  and 
then  took  to  the  road.  They  completely  dominated  the  stage. 
Often  there  was  barely  time  for  a  rehearsal  with  the  local  stock 
companies  which  supported  them,  and  the  star  went  blithely 
ahead  almost  regardless  of  other  members  of  the  cast.  *Tm  not 
much  of  a  judge,"  commented  one  member  of  a  Philadelphia 
audience  at  a  performance  of  King  Lear  by  James  Wallack,  **but 
I  should  think  he  was  a  damned  fine  actor  for  he  pkyed  this 
piece  all  by  himself." 2S 

In  the  first  decades  of  the  century  these  stars  were  primarily 
English  actors:  George  Frederick  Cooke,  Edmund  Kean,  the  elder 
Charles  Mathews,  Charles  Kemble  and  the  delightful  Fanny 
Kemble,  William  Charles  Macready,  and  Junius  Brutus  Booth. 
Only  very  slowly  did  American  actors  begin  to  rival  them.  But 
by  mid-century  native  talent  had  won  enthusiastic  recognition. 
The  melodramatic  genius  of  Edwin  Forrest  made  him  the  coun- 
try's foremost  tragedian,  James  H.  Hackett  swung  into  popular 
favor  with  his  comic  Yankee  r&les,  and  the  American-born  Edwin 
Booth  was  starting  on  his  memorable  career.  The  entire  country 
was  immensely  proud  of  Charlotte  Cushman,  an  actress  whose 
emotional  power  carried  her  to  dramatic  heights  unsealed  by  her 
contemporaries.  There  were  others:  Henry  Pkcide,  John  Gilbert, 
E.  L.  Davenport,  William  Warren,  Jr.,  James  E.  Murdoch,  the 


young  Joseph  Jefferson. ...  A  theatrical  tradition  was  being  firmly 

The  temperamental  eccentricities  of  many  of  the  stars,  their 
arrogance,  their  frequent  drinking,  their  disregard  of  conventions, 
clothed  them  with  a  fatal  fascination  for  the  theatre-going  pub- 
lic. But  these  habits  also  brought  down  on  their  heads  the  horri- 
fied attacks  of  all  custodians  of  public  morals.  The  stars  gave  the 
theatre  its  artistic  standing,  but  they  also  made  far  more  difficult 
the  slow  process  of  winning  approval  for  the  theatre  in  the 
country  at  large. 

Cooke  was  an  unregenerate  drunkard;  Kean  was  involved  in 
scandals  which  finally  led  to  his  being  hissed  off  the  stage;  the 
records  of  Forrest's  unsavory  divorce  case  were  spread  over  the 
pages  of  the  country's  newspapers;  and  the  drunken  brawls  of 
Junius  Brutus  Booth,  the  preludes  to  his  repeated  fits  of  insanity, 
won  hfrn  nationwide  notoriety. 

Booth's  managers  were  at  times  compelled  to  resort  to  every 
possible  stratagem  to  get  him  on  the  stage  in  a  reasonably  sober 
condition.  They  would  take  him  out  for  long  carriage  drives  just 
before  a  performance,  lock  him  in  his  hotel  room,  or  dose  him 
with  vinegar.  When  he  escaped  their  vigilance,  there  was  no 
telling  what  might  happen.  Sometimes  he  would  stagger  through 
his  part,  his  voice  hardly  audible;  at  other  times  he  would  give  a 
brilliant  performance  which  would  bring  down  the  house.  On 
one  occasion  he  could  not  be  found.  A  thorough  search  of  the 
city's  bars  finally  led  to  his  discovery,  very  drunk,  a  good  half- 
hour  after  the  curtain  should  have  gone  up.  The  audience  was 
going  wild.  Booth  rushed  on  the  stage,  shaking  an  infuriated 
fist  at  the  galleries.  "Shut  up!"  he  yelled.  "You  shut  up  out  there 
and  in  ten  minutes  111  give  you  the  god-damnedest  King  Lear 
you  ever  saw  in  your  life!"  The  story  is  that  he  did,  and  a  de- 
lighted audience  was  with  hfm  from  his  opening  line.29 

The  plays  necessarily  conformed  to  the  taste  of  a  democratic 
audience.  Shakespeare  was  the  favorite  vehicle  of  the  stars— they 
would  condescend  to  play  few  other  parts— and  the  theatre-going 


public  appears  to  have  hugely  enjoyed  the  dramatic  and  fervid 
oratory,  "the  rant  and  cant,"  which  marked  their  acting  of  the 
great  tragedies.  It  was  an  age  of  oratory,  of  theatricalism.  The 
actors  were  the  rivals  of  Clay,  Calhoun,  and  Webster,  and  they 
had  to  outdo  them  at  their  own  trade.  It  must  have  been  an 
experience  to  see  and  hear  Forrest  as  King  Lear.  "Played  it,  Sir? 
Played  it?"  this  redoubtable  actor  exclaimed  when  complimented 
on  how  he  had  acted  the  r61e.  "By  God,  I  am  King  Lear." 30  But 
while  Shakespeare  was  a  great  drawing-card  among  all  classes, 
the  public  demanded  above  all  else  change  and  variety.  Pro- 
grams were  shifted  so  frequently,  and  so  many  different  plays 
were  given,  that  when  an  entire  season's  repertoire  is  consid- 
ered, Shakespearean  drama  did  not  actually  fill  a  very  large 

A  single  theatre  might  present  more  than  a  hundred  different 
plays  in  one  season  (the  St.  Louis  theatre  gave  no  less  than 
one  hundred  and  fifty-seven  in  the  season  of  1839),  and  few  of 
them  would  have  as  many  as  three  or  four  performances.  The 
bill  changed  almost  every  night.  Under  such  circumstances 
sixty-five  performances  of  Shakespeare  in  Philadelphia's  three 
theatres  during  the  season  of  1835  far  exceeded  performances  of 
plays  by  any  other  single  dramatist.  Eighty-three  productions  of 
Richard  III  over  an  eight-year  period  made  it  the  most  fre- 
quently presented  of  all  dramas.  When  Forrest  actually  played 
Macbeth  for  twenty  consecutive  nights  at  a  New  York  theatre 
in  1853,  he  set  up  a  phenomenal  record.81 

The  public  enjoyed  the  stars  in  these  roles,  but  the  domina- 
tion of  the  individual  actor  is  responsible  for  the  overemphasis 
always  placed  on  the  Shakespearean  tradition.  The  more  general 
run  of  plays  provides  a  clearer  indication  of  popular  taste.  Hun- 
dreds of  thoroughly  second-rate  comedies,  farces,  and  melo- 
dramas, now  happily  forgotten,  innumerable  musical  shows,  ex- 
travaganzas, and  burlesques,  were  the  theatre's  real  stock  in 
trade.  There  were  plays  hastily  adapted  from  novel  or  story, 
crudely  concocted  by  managers  or  actors  for  a  single  perform- 


ance.  Watkins  tells  of  writing  a  five-act  drama  in  eight  days— 
"the  last  two  days  I  suffered  a  great  deal  of  pain." 82 

Even  when  Shakespeare  was  presented,  the  principal  play  did 
not  stand  alone.  Other  entertainment  was  interpolated  between 
the  acts— specialty  dances,  popular  music,  jugglers,  acrobats,  or 
even  trained  animals.  And  the  whole  performance  invariably 
concluded  with  a  farce.  As  the  Prince  of  Denmark  wandered  off 
the  stage,  the  clown  came  on;  the  echo  of  Othello's  threats  was 
a  comic  song;  and  Lady  Macbeth  washed  her  frenzied  hands 
only  to  provide  the  cue  for  a  French  danseuse.  When  the  Hal- 
lams  had  invaded  New  England  almost  a  century  earlier,  their 
Shakespearean  performance  had  concluded  at  ten-thirty  so  that 
"every  spectator  may  go  home  at  a  sober  hour,  and  reflect  upon 
what  he  has  seen."  Not  so  these  audiences  of  the  new  democ- 
racy. They  did  not  want  to  be  kept  awake  pondering  over  Ham- 
let's soliloquies  or  Desdemona's  wrongs.  They  couldn't  take  their 
Shakespeare  straight;  they  demanded  a  chaser. 

Booth  played  Hamlet  at  the  Boston  Museum  in  a  program  also 
including  Miss  Avila  and  Master  Phillipa  in  a  Pas  Hongrois  and 
the  new  farce  Village  Gossip.  A  performance  of  Much  Ado  about 
Nothing  with  Clare  Fisher  was  followed  by  a  musical  farce  in 
which  the  leading  lady  returned  to  sing  "Oh!  Brave  Rub  a  Dub." 
Romeo  and  Juliet,  with  a  comic  clog-dance  as  an  entr'acte,  was 
followed  on  occasion  by  the  double  bill  of  Oh!  Hush  and  The 
Good  Looking  Fellow.  A  performance  of  Richelieu  with  Edwin 
Forrest  was  enlivened  by  a  "grand  pas  de  deux"  and  a  "national 
descriptive  melange"  between  acts,  the  performance  then  closing 
with  The  Double  Bedded  Boom.33  The  early  nineteenth-century 
audience  got  its  full  money's  worth  at  the  theatre— a  good  fifty 
cents'  worth  of  lively  entertainment  The  program  of  main 
feature,  several  shorts,  and  a  comedy  pointed  the  way  to  the 
modern  movie  program.  So  did  the  occasional  double  feature. 
The  theatre  of  the  1840's  reached  out  to  very  much  the  same  type 
of  audience. 

Apart  from  Shakespeare,  few  of  the  plays  constituting  the  the- 


atre's  principal  offerings  have  survived  even  in  memory.  They 
were  largely  English  in  origin,  or  adapted  from  the  German  of 
such  a  popular  playwright  as  Kotzebue.  American  dramas  were 
a  long  time  in  coming,  and  those  written  in  this  period  hardly 
deserved  to  last.  For  the  excellent  plays  with  which  the  colonial 
theatre  had  supplemented  Shakespeare,  there  was  substituted  a 
miscellany  of  largely  worthless  trash.  The  Lady  of  Lyons  and 
Richelieu,   both   by   Bulwer-Lytton,   were   popular;    Sheridan 
Knowles*  The  Hunchback  was  a  favorite;  and  a  number  of  plays 
specially  written  for  Forrest— The   Gladiator  and   Metamora, 
The  Last  of  the  Wamponoags— had  a  wide  vogue.  Mrs.  Anna 
Cora  Mowatt  struck  a  new  note  with  her  comedy  of  manners 
Fashion;  Dion  Boucicault  started  the  long  list  of  his  popular 
dramas  with  London  Assurance,  and  in  mid-century  came  Our 
American  Cousin,  which  Lincoln  was  seeing  on  the  fatal  night 
of  his  assassination.  Even  more  typical  of  this  day  were  such 
plays  as  the  historical  romance  The  Green  Mountain  Boys  of 
1776;  the  French  adaptation  Adeline,  or  The  Victim  of  Seduc- 
tion; the  old  farce  of  High  Life  below  Stairs;  and  the  exciting 
melodrama  Nick  of  the  Woods: 

Hold,  murdering  villain!  Richard  Braxley,  forbearl 
Now,  Rowland  Forester,  I  defy  theel 
Monster,  hold. . . . 

Behold  thy  promised  bride.  Consent  to  make  her  mine  or  down  yon 
boiling  cataract  IH  hurl  her  to  destruction. . . . 

Shakespeare's  greatest  rival,  however,  was  probably  John  Bald- 
win Buckingstone,  the  prolific  author  (one  hundred  and  fifty 
plays)  of  The  "Pet  of  the  Petticoats  and  A  Kiss  in  the  Dark. 

No  one  of  these  plays  ever  had  a  run  comparable  to  those 
achieved  to-day  by  scores  of  modern  productions.  It  was  The 
Drunkard,  or  The  Fallen  Saved,  with  a  record  of  some  one 
hundred  and  thirty  performances  at  the  Boston  Museum  in  1844, 
that  inaugurated  the  more  modern  custom  of  an  unchanging 
bill  over  any  considerable  period.3*  Its  highly  moral  treatment 


of  the  universal  topic  of  temperance  (Watkins  almost  kflled 
himself  with  his  realistic  interpretation  of  delirium  tremens), 
made  a  tremendous  appeal  to  those  pious  elements  of  society 
who  usually  condemned  the  theatre  as  a  subversive  influence 
undermining  morals. 

Even  more  important  in  winning  new  converts  to  the  theatre, 
a  landmark  in  the  gradual  breaking  down  of  religious  prejudice 
against  the  stage,  was  Uncle  Tom's  Cabin.  Its  dramatic  version 
—its  many  dramatic  versions—  toured  the  country  with  phenom- 
enal success  in  the  1850*5.  Performances  were  given  by  troupes 
of  Tommers  in  villages  and  hamlets  where  a  play  had  never 
before  been  seen.  Its  exploitation  of  antislavery  sentiment 
brought  thousands  of  persons  to  the  theatre  who  justified  their 
attendance  by  devotion  to  what  the  Herald,  assailing  the  play  as 
a  firebrand,  called  the  "pestilent  principles  of  abolitionism."35 
After  the  Civil  War  there  was  a  revival  of  Uncle  Torrfs  Cabin. 
It  became  a  classic  of  the  stage,  performed  more  times  than  any 
other  American  play;  and  Uncle  Tom,  Little  Eva,  Simon  Legree, 
became  a  part  of  our  national  folklore. 

As  THE  CENTUBY  advanced  and  theatre  audiences  became  more 
and  more  plebeian,  various  specialty  performances  with  an  even 
wider  popular  appeal  increasingly  overshadowed  serious  drama. 
The  hodgepodge  of  entertainment  in  which  acrobatic  acts  and 
farces  lightened  Shakespearean  tragedy  gave  way  to  a  new 
differentiation  in  programs.  The  legitimate  stage  and  wholly 
popular  entertainment  were  at  last  divorced.  There  was  a  franker 
appeal  to  "the  blood  and  thunder  taste  of  the  lower  half  million* 
by  producers  whose  sole  goal  was  to  chalk  up  large  box-office 

One  such  type  of  performance  coming  down  from  an  early 
day  was  the  equestrian  drama.  It  was  soon  to  merge  with  travel- 
ing menageries  and  country  road  shows  to  form  the  modern 
circus,  but  throughout  the  first  half  of  the  century  there  were 


many  heroic  spectacles  in  which  troops  of  horses  clattered  noisily 
on  and  off  stage  at  even  the  most  aristocratic  houses.  The  great 
size  of  the  stage  made  this  easily  possible,  and  there  was  con- 
tinuous rivalry  among  the  managers  in  presenting  more  and 
more  elaborate  spectacles.  They  crowded  the  background  with 
precipices,  waterfalls,  forest  groves,  lakes,  terraces,  palaces,  and 
castle  walls.  The  scenery  was  always  advertised  as  being  of  the 
most  gorgeous  description,  the  dresses  extraordinarily  costly, 
and  the  stage  machineiy  the  most  complicated  and  expensive  yet 

Consider  the  stage  directions  of  the  prologue  of  Putnam,  or 
The  Iron  Son  of  76: 


Slow  music.  Three  quarters  dark.  Ethereal  firmament  filled  with 
silver  stars.  Eagle  flying  in  the  air>  to  ascend,  looking  down  upon  a 
lion  couchant,  on  trap  to  descend.  The  goddesses  discovered  in  vari- 
ous groups  bearing  blue  wands  with  silver  stars.  God  of  War  on  small 
Roman  chariot,  to  descend.  Goddess  of  Liberty  on  trap  in  small  Roman 
chariot,  to  descend. 

In  the  more  serious  business  of  the  play,  Putnam  is  continually 
dashing  about  the  stage  on  horseback,  guns  and  drums  keeping 
up  a  terrific  uproar  in  the  wings.  Finally  he  leaps  a  gate,  falls 
on  the  stage  covered  with  blood: 

CLARA.  Dear  Uncle,  you  are  wounded! 

PUTNAM.  A  mere  flea  bite!  Arm  boys,  arm;  the  white  skins  and  red 

skins  are  upon  us!  The  war  kettle  boils!  Three  cheers,  and  upon 

them!  86 

In  1803  the  grand  pantomime  of  La  Fille  Hussar  was  per- 
formed in  New  York  with  real  horses— "never  before  attempted 
in  America.**  A  few  years  later  Philadelphia  went  wild  over 
Timour  the  Tartar,  an  exciting  drama  in  which  the  heroine, 
mounted  on  her  splendid  white  charger,  "ran  up  the  stupendous 
cataract  to  the  very  height  of  the  stage."  During  the  depression 
year  of  1837  the  immensely  popular  Mazeppa,  or  The  Wild 


Horse,  was  playing  to  standing-room  only  in  New  York  with 
"Mr.  Cook's  unrivalled  stud  of  horses,  amounting  to  fifty  in 

Even  Shakespeare  was  put  on  horseback  with  a  neat  blending 
of  classic  drama  and  the  circus.  Henry  TV  was  staged  as  a  mam- 
moth spectacle,  Richard  III  performed  with  the  principal  charac- 
ters mounted.  Toward  the  close  of  its  long  career  the  Park 
attempted  to  remain  loyal  to  its  traditions  and  at  the  same  time 
profit  from  a  broader  appeal  by  staging  what  it  called  a  Tribute 
to  Shakespeare.  Neither  Forrest  nor  Macready  nor  Booth  was 
the  star  attraction,  but  the  famous  southern  equestrian  C.  J. 
Rogers,  assisted  by  twenty-one  riders  in  correct  and  superb  cos- 
tumes. To  the  delight  of  his  audience  Mr.  Rogers  impersonated 
on  horseback,  among  a  number  of  other  less  distinguished  horse- 
men, both  Falstaff  and  Shylock.38 

Quite  a  different  and  surprisingly  popular  show  was  the  ballet. 
The  first  arrival  of  a  troupe  of  French  dancers  in  the  1820*s 
caused  a  sensation.  Many  contemporary  accounts  bear  witness 
to  the  consternation  of  even  veteran  theatre-goers.  "I  was  at  the 
first  presentation,"  Achille  Murat  wrote.  'The  appearance  of  the 
dancers  in  short  dresses,  created  an  astonishment  I  know  not 
how  to  describe.  But  at  the  first  pirouette  when  the  short  petti- 
coats, with  lead  at  the  extremities  began  to  mount  and  assume 
a  horizontal  position,  it  was  quite  another  matter;  the  women 
screamed  aloud  and  the  greater  part  left  the  theatre;  the  men 
remained,  for  the  most  part  roaring  and  sobbing  with  ecstasy,  the 
sole  idea  which  struck  them  being  that  of  the  ridiculous/* 39 

Audiences  quickly  became  more  sophisticated.  Even  in  Boston 
the  ballet  was  a  great  success,  a  contemporary  reporting  that 
"the  more  outre  the  dancing,  the  more  applause."  When  the 
divine  Fanny  Elssler  arrived  in  the  1840's,  her  triumph  was  a 
milestone  in  theatrical  history.  Her  sensational  dancing  of  La 
Cracovienne  and  La  Tarentule  became  "all  the  rage—all  the 
mania— all  the  talk."  "The  grace,  the  beauty,  the  purity,  the  hue 
of  innocence  and  virtue  which  surrounded  the  highest  and  most 

Lithographed  cover  o£  a  miKiifi  shftfit  of  1840.  Courtesv  of  the  American 


classical  order  of  dancing,"  rhapsodized  the  New  fork  Herald, 
"was  never  presented  here  in  so  marked  and  distinct  style."  40 

The  lamentations  of  outraged  prudes  did  not  stay  for  a  moment 
her  triumphal  tour  about  the  country  or  prevent  her  from  being 
invited  to  sit  in  the  chair  of  the  Speaker  of  the  House  of  Rep- 
resentatives.*1 "The  good  newspapers  rail  dreadfully  at  the  bad 
people  who  will  go  to  see  her/'  Philip  Hone  noted  in  his  diary, 
". . .  but  the  more  they  rail  the  more  people  won't  mind  them. 
Nothing  is  more  ridiculous  than  these  abortive  attempts  to  stem 
the  current  of  public  opinion  in  relation  to  the  people's  amuse- 

The  1840's  also  saw  the  growth  of  a  new  type  of  burlesque 
and  musical  travesty,  the  forerunners  of  to-day's  topical  revues, 
which  delighted  both  the  newsboys  at  Mitchell's  Olympic  The- 
atre and  the  more  fashionable  audience  at  Brougham's  Lyceum. 
Everything  was  burlesqued:  Shakespeare  in  Much  Ado  about 
a  Merchant  of  Venice,  the  dancing  of  Fanny  Elssler  in  La 
Mosquito,  and  grand  opera  in  Lucy  Did  Lamm  Her  Moor. 
Elaborate  extravaganzas  were  staged,  such  as  Pocahontas  with 
its  lusty  chorus: 

Well  roared,  indeed,  my  jolly  Tuscaroras  • 

Most  loyal  corps,  your  King  encores  your  chorus. 

A  revue  centered  upon  the  marital  customs  of  the  Mormons  had 
an  even  greater  success.  The  Bowery  Amphitheatre  made  a  sen- 
sation with  The  Revolt  of  the  Harem.  Over  the  horizon  was  The 
Black  Crook  (it  was  to  run  at  Niblo's  for  sixteen  months  when 
first  staged  in  1866  and  was  thereafter  revived  again  and  again 
until  the  close  of  the  century)  and  the  rage  for  what  were  al- 
ready being  called  leg  shows.43 

This  trend  in  theatrical  entertainment  inevitably  awoke  new 
opposition  to  the  stage  and  served  in  some  part  to  offset  the  ap- 
proval it  was  winning  among  former  foes  by  the  production  of 
such  plays  as  The  Drunkard  and  Uncle  Toms  Cabin.  When  some 
of  the  managers  went  a  step  further  still  and  staged  a  series  of 


tableaux  vivants  in  which  appeared  living  men  and  women  in 
almost  the  same  state  in  which  Gabriel  saw  them  in  the  Garden 
of  Eden,"  the  godly  were  still  more  convinced  that  the  stage  was 
the  Devil's  workshop. 

Advertisements  of  the  Living  Models  assured  the  public  that 
nothing  would  be  shown  that  could  bring  a  blush  to  the  most 
chaste  cheek,  but  with  this  concession  to  prevailing  morals  they 
went  unashamedly  ahead  to  stress  the  "beautiful  symmetry"  of 
the  artists  who  would  appear  in  "Psyche  Going  to  the  Bath"  and 
"Venus  Rising  from  the  Sea."  44  Crowds  flocked  to  the  new  at- 
tractions. The  Tribune  forcefully  declared  that  "the  majority  go 
because  of  depraved  taste  rather  than  pure  love  of  art";  the 
Herald  stigmatized  the  audiences  as  "fashionable  old  rakes  and 
ineffable  scoundrels  about  town";  45  but  the  fact  remained  that 
the  classes  as  well  as  the  masses  found  their  senses  agreeably 
titillated  Nothing  could  better  illustrate  the  curious  blend  of 
prudery  and  prurience  which  characterized  the  period. 

Finally  the  police  were  goaded  into  action  and  descended  on 
one  of  the  shows.  There  ensued  a  "scene  of  stirring  interest"  in 
the  dressing-rooms,  again  to  quote  the  Herald,  "where  some  five 
or  six  well  formed  females  were  in  the  act  of  preparing  for  the 
next  tableau.  In  one  corner  was  seen  a  very  fleshly  lady  dressed 
as  Bacchus,  studying  her  position  on  a  barrel.  Another  beauti- 
fully formed  creature,  just  drawing  on  her  tights  for  the  Greek 
Slave,  and  some  of  the  others,  were  so  dreadfully  alarmed  at  the 
sight  of  the  police  with  their  clubs  in  hand  that  they  seized  up 
a  portion  of  their  garments  in  order  to  hide  their  faces,  forgetting 
their  lower  extremities,  thus  making  a  scene  mixed  up  with  the 
sublime  and  the  ridiculous*"  4S 

The  girls  were  duly  escorted  to  the  police  station  (where  a 
supper  of  roast  turkey  and  wine  was  served  to  "cheer  their 
souls"),  and  measures  taken  to  prevent  any  further  performances. 
Eventually  they  proved  successful.  In  the  Sunday  Mercury  in 
May,  1848,  we  find  a  plaintive  correspondent  sorrowfully  asking 
what  has  happened  to 


Those  nice  tableaux  vivants 

Of  beautiful  young  ladies,  sans 

Both  petticoats  and  pants, 

Who,  scorning  fashion's  shifts  and  whims 

Did  nightly  crowds  delight 

By  showing  up  their  handsome  limbs 

At  fifty  cents  a  sight 47 

A  more  important  development  was  the  production  of  variety 
shows  clearly  foreshadowing  modern  vaudeville.  By  the  middle 
of  the  century  every  city  had  playhouses  presenting  varied  pro- 
grams of  specialty  acts  designed  solely  for  the  entertainment  of 
the  democracy.  The  theatrical  advertising  columns  fairly  bristled 
with  announcements  of  such  performances.  At  Niblo's  a  program 
featuring  the  celebrated  Ravels,  a  band  of  pantomimists,  acro- 
bats, and  dancers,  was  even  advertised  as  "French  Vaudeville." 
Another  playhouse  was  renamed  the  New  Theatre  of  Mirth  and 
Variety.  Its  shows  included  "Elboleros,  Cachuchas,  Scotch  flings 
and  Strathspeys,"  a  selection  of  "the  most  astonishing  feats  of 
Gymnastics  and  Contortions  ever  presented  in  this  country,"  and 
an  act  billed  as  "the  Flying  Cord  by  the  unequalled  Mr.  Ruggles." 
The  whole  performance,  admission  from  6&  to  25  cents,  was  en- 
livened with  music  by  the  New  York  Brass  Band.48 

The  program  at  the  Franklin  Theatre  on  one  occasion  included 
Chemistry,  French  plays,  Magic,  Mesmeric  Clairvoyance,  beau- 
tiful and  admired  Astronomical  Diagrams,  and  Diaphanous 
Tableaux— a  selection  clearly  designed  to  meet  all  tastes,  includ- 
ing the  educational.  The  popularity  of  infant  prodigies  was  re- 
flected on  the  variety  stage,  a  featured  act  being  the  Bateman 
children,  aged  six  and  eleven,  who  played  in  Romeo  and  Juliet 
and  The  Merchant  of  Venice.  Other  shows  paid  less  attention 
to  the  vogue  for  culture.  Ballad-singers,  strong  men  (breaking 
eighty-pound  stones  with  their  bare  fists),  burlesque  dancers, 
and  companies  of  female  minstrels  were  widely  advertised.  A 
new  costume  suggested  for  women  at  this  time  was  responsible 
for  the  Bloomer  Troupe,  while  a  mysterious  act  sandwiched  in 


between  the  bloomer  girls  and  the  juvenile  Shakespeareans  was 
titled  "Spiritual!  Nekings,"  As  the  variety  theatre  worked  its  way 
down  through  the  free-and-easy  concert-halls,  the  entertainment 
became  more  and  more  questionable.  Free  Sunday  performances 
were  given  at  the  Melodeon,  advertising  "prettiest  female  at- 
tendants, best  wines  and  segars  and  liquors."  49 

LEGITIMATE  DRAMA  was  not  entirely  given  up  even  though  the 
theatres  devoted  to  circus  stunts  and  variety  multiplied  much 
faster  than  the  more  conservative  houses.  But  mid-century  critics 
gave  the  impression  that  it  was  forever  doomed  by  such  un- 
ashamed catering  to  a  debased  public  taste  through  "senseless, 
absurd,  inconsistent,  tinselled,  vulgar  and  immodest  spectacles." 
None  of  them  was  more  alarmed  than  the  future  poet  of  democ- 
racy. "Of  all  low*  places,"  Walt  Whitman  stormily  wrote  in  the 
Brooklyn  Eagle  of  February  8,  1847,  "where  vulgarity  (not  only 
on  the  stage,  but  in  front  of  it)  is  in  the  ascendant,  and  bad 
taste  carries  the  day  with  hardly  a  pleasant  point  to  mitigate  its 
coarseness,  the  New  York  theatres—  except  the  Park—  may  be  put 
down  ...  at  the  top  of  the  heap."  50 

In  so  far  as  these  attacks  were  justified,  the  reason  could 
largely  be  found  in  the  failure  of  the  better  elements  of  the  popu- 
lation to  give  the  theatre  decent  support.  In  a  day  when  the  stage 
was  "indiscriminately  voted  immoral,  irreligious,  and  what  is 
much  worse,  unfashionable,"  as  Philip  Hone  sharply  declared,51 
there  was  very  little  the  managers  could  do  other  than  give  the 
general  public  what  it  wanted.  The  survival  of  the  theatre  during 
the  hard  times  that  followed  the  panic  of  1837,  its  success  in  rid- 
ing out  that  financial  storm,  was  largely  due  to  this  broadening 
of  its  popular  appeal.  It  could  not  afford  to  be  artistic  or  too 

It  was  really  more  firmly  established,  however,  than  the  con- 
temporary critics  thought.  Looking  back  upon  the  age  that  saw 
the  great  acting  of  Edmund  Kean,  Edwin  Forrest,  and  Junius 


Brutus  Booth,  of  Fanny  Kemble  and  Charlotte  Cushman,  as  well 
as  the  equestrian  melodrama,  living  models,  and  variety  shows 
of  the  cheaper  houses,  writers  on  the  theatre  now  declare  that  the 
second  quarter  of  the  nineteenth  century  ushered  in  a  golden 
era  in  the  history  of  the  American  stage.52 

"Still  does  the  Drama  sit  with  the  mob;  still  is  Pegasus  yoked 
with  the  ox/'  a  contributor  to  the  Dial  declared  in  I860.53  Enter- 
tainment for  the  democracy  was  the  theatre's  primary  function 
at  a  time  when  it  was  the  only  public  diversion,  as  the  Southern 
Literary  Messenger  stated,  to  furnish  "entertainment  to  all 
classes."  a* 



*  V  appeal,  it  faced  the  increasing  competition  of  other  forms 
of  commercial  entertainment.  By  the  1850's  almost  every  city 
had  a  museum  with  a  jumbled  collection  of  curiosities,  dead  and 
alive,  and  a  program  of  concerts  and  variety  acts  which  could 
be  seen  for  twenty-five  or  fifty  cents.  At  scores  of  music-halls 
bands  of  black-faced  comedians  broke  happily  into  the  "Lucy 
Long  Walk  Around"  or  plaintively  sang  "Old  Black  Joe"  as  a 
phenomenal  rage  for  minstrelsy  swept  the  land.  And  into  towns 
and  villages  from  Maine  to  Georgia,  westward  to  the  Mis- 
sissippi, rolled  the  red  and  gold  wagons  housing  the  properties 
of  what  was  to  become  one  of  America's  great  institutions— the 

Phineas  T.  Barnum  stands  out  as  the  leading  figure  of  this 
period  in  amusing  the  populace.  No  struggle  between  dramatic 
standards  and  popular  taste  ever  troubled  the  master  showman 
of  them  all.  He  was  not  one  whit  interested  in  art;  he  was  inter- 
ested in  entertainment  He  recognized  the  potential  market  in 
the  restless  urban  masses.  With  uncanny  prescience  he  sensed 
what  they  wanted,  or  could  be  made  to  want,  and  gave  it  to 
them.  He  gave  it  enthusiastically,  generously,  lavishly— whether 
Jenny  Lind,  the  country's  pioneer  baby  show,  or  his  Grand 
Colossal  Museum  and  Menagerie.  Nor  did  Mr.  Barnum  ever 
wait  for  his  public  to  become  bored;  he  believed  in  infinite  va- 
riety. The  Feejee  mermaid  gave  way  to  General  Tom  Thumb, 
General  Tom  Thumb  to  the  Bearded  Lady,  the  Bearded  Lady 
to  Campagnolian  Bell  Ringers.  His  American  Museum  took  in 



everything  from  trained  fleas  to  panoramas  of  the  Holy  Land. 
James  Gordon  Bennett  called  hfm  the  Napoleon  of  Public  Cater- 
ers :4  he  always  provided  a  good  show,  and  the  eager,  unsophis- 
ticated, amusement-hungry  public  of  his  day  loved  it. 

Barnum  represented  democracy  in  public  entertainment  much 
as  Andrew  Jackson  had  represented  it  in  politics.  Government 
in  the  interests  of  the  common  man,  amusements  in  the  interests 
of  the  common  man.  No  one  did  more  to  promote  the  leveling 
influence  of  popular  recreation.  The  theatre  had  tried  to  com- 
promise. It  staged  its  equestrian  dramas,  its  burlesques,  its  ex- 
travaganzas, but  it  was  always  trying  to  get  back  to  Shakespeare, 
looking  a  little  down  its  nose  at  the  raucous  taste  of  the  lower 
half -million.  Mr.  Barnum  was  out  to  take  the  lower  half-million 
into  camp,  and  he  succeeded  because  his  methods  were  direct 
and  simple.  The  democratic  masses  followed  his  lead  as  docilely 
as  the  Irish  visitors  at  his  Museum  followed  tihe  sign  "to  the 
Egress"— and  found  themselves  in  the  street.  For  though  some- 
times he  outrageously  fooled  his  public,  put  over  elaborate 
hoaxes,  they  enjoyed  it  hugely. 

It  was  all  highly  educational  and  strictly  moral— the  exhibi- 
tions in  his  museum,  the  strange  curiosities  touring  the  country 
under  his  sponsorship,  the  variety  acts  staged  in  his  sumptuous 
lecture-room.  When  the  old  lady  from  Dubuque  asked  him  when 
the  service  began,  the  great  showman  soberly  told  her  that  the 
congregation  were  already  taking  their  seats.  Spellbound  country 
folk  who  delighted  in  his  presentations  of  The  Drunkard  and 
Uncle  Toms  Cabin  would  have  been  horrified  at  the  suggestion 
that  they  had  attended  the  theatre. 

This  skilful  exploitation  of  the  prejudices  of  his  day  was  one 
of  the  secrets  of  Barnum's  success.  The  gospel  of  work,  the 
urge  for  self-education,  religious  disapproval  of  amusements, 
never  hampered  his  activities.  The  theatre  struggled  against  the 
spirit  of  the  times.  Barnum  capitalized  it  The  "chaste  scenic 
entertainments"  of  his  lecture-room  were  generously  staged  for 
"all  those  who  disapprove  of  the  dissipations,  debaucheries,  pro- 


fanity,  vulgarity,  and  other  abominations,  which  characterize  our 
modern  theatres."2  Not  a  thought  would  be  breathed  in  his 
museum,  let  alone  act  performed  or  word  uttered,  that  could 
bring  a  blush  to  the  cheek  of  modesty.  The  Puritan  in  entertain- 
ment, Barnum  proudly  recorded  that  "even  Shakespeare's  dramas 
were  shorn  of  their  objectionable  features  when  placed  upon 
my  stage."3  He  saw  sermons  in  circus  elephants  and  preached 
them  to  the  discomfiture  of  rival  managers.  No  one  better  under- 
stood the  temper  of  the  Victorian  era. 

BABNUM'S  American  Museum—  it  was  in  New  York,  but  it  had  its 
counterpart  in  other  cities  and  its  features  were  widely  copied— 
became  a  national  institution  in  the  1840*s.  No  out-of-towner  ever 
missed  it;  it  was  the  delight  of  country  visitors.  They  might  occa- 
sionally have  seen  giants  and  dwarfs,  jugglers  and  rope-dancers, 
pantomimes  and  acrobats,  but  here  under  one  roof  was  a  wealth 
of  amusements  (six  hundred  thousand  curiosities)  such  as  im- 
agination could  hardly  picture.  The  visitor  bored  by  the  national 
portrait  gallery  could  watch  the  three  living  serpents  of  enor- 
mous size  being  given  their  noonday  meal.  When  he  had  ex- 
hausted the  wonders  of  the  model  of  Niagara  Falls  (with  real 
water  from  the  new  Croton  Reservoir),  he  could  have  his  fortune 
told  by  the  mysterious  Madame  Rockwell.  There  were  statues  of 
scriptural  characters  and  waxwork  figures  depicting  the  horrors 
of  intemperance;  models  of  new  machines  and  an  anatomical 
Venus;  an  ever-changing  selection  of  panoramas,  dioramas,  cy- 
cloramas,  and  georamas.4 

Urban  workers  and  country  farmers  were  not  the  only  visitors. 
When  a  Canadian  giant  was  exhibited,  the  aristocratic  Philip 
Hone,  one-time  mayor,  made  careful  measurements  of  this 
natural  phenomenon,  reporting  in  his  diary  that  the  619-pound 
monstrosity  had  ankles  three  feet  five  inches  around.  He  went 
repeatedly  to  see  General  Tom  Thumb.  Upon  the  midget's  re- 
turn from  his  triumphal  foreign  tour  ("kissed  by  a  million  pairs 


of  the  sweetest  lips  in  Europe**),  Mr.  Hone  proudly  noted  that 
Tom  Thumb  spoke  to  him  by  name.5 

From  the  portals  of  the  Museum  went  out  scores  of  traveling 
exhibitions  which  gave  Barnum  his  nation-wide  fame.  Some  of 
them  were  authentic,  some  of  them  cleverly  faked.  There  was  no 
denying  the  genuineness  of  the  giants  and  midgets.  Possibly  the 
bearded  lady  was  a  border-line  case,  although  her  whiskers  were 
guaranteed  "to  put  at  a  single  glance  all  incredulity  at  defiance." 
But  there  were  also  Joice  Heth,  whom  Barnum  blandly  claimed 
to  have  been  the  nurse  of  George  Washington;  the  notorious 
Woolly  Horse,  supposedly  captured  by  John  C.  Fremont;  and  in 
later  years  the  famous  white  elephants  of  Siam.6  Few  people 
really  cared  whether  the  elephants  owed  their  color  to  art  rather 
than  nature,  even  when  the  whitewash  began  to  fade.  No  one 
minded  being  taken  in  by  the  Prince  of  Humbugs. 

When  exhibitions  began  to  pall,  Barnum  experimented  with 
melodrama  and  variety  acts  in  his  sumptuous  Lecture  Room. 
He  was  prepared  to  stage  anything— so  long  as  it  was  highly 
moral— and  he  gradually  evolved  a  program  with  two  and  three 
performances  a  day  which  won  his  show-place  still  greater  pop- 
ularity. In  midsummer  of  1843  we  find  him  advertising  Chang 
Fong,  the  Chinese  juggler;  the  inimitable  Winchell,  famous  for 
"Droll,  quizzical,  mirth-provoking  impersonations";  a  knitting- 
machine  run  by  a  dog;  and  the  Ethiopian  Serenaders,  with  "six 
performers,  each  one  of  whom  is  a  professor  of  music." 7 

The  most  spectacular  triumph  of  Barnum's  career— more  nota- 
ble than  the  European  tour  with  General  Tom  Thumb— was  his 
mid-century  presentation  of  Jenny  Lind.  The  country  had  never 
known  anything  comparable  to  the  excitement  evoked  by  the 
tour  of  the  Swedish  Nightingale.  Fanny  Kemble  had  won  the 
heart  of  America  in  the  1830*s,  Fanny  Elssler  had  swept  all  before 
her  in  the  1840's.  Jenny  Lind  became  the  idol  of  millions  who 
would  not  have  anything  to  do  with  the  stage.  New  York,  Bos- 
ton, Philadelphia,  the  South  and  the  West,  worshiped  at  her 


"Not  a  day  passes,"  wrote  a  contemporary  diarist  just  before 
her  appearance  at  Castle  Garden,  "without  some  article  lauding 
her  talents  until  Jenny  Lind  is  in  every  mouth;  Jenny  Lind  hats, 
Jenny  Lind  coats,  cigars,  oysters,  etc.,  in  short,  everything  is 
Jenny  Lind.  When  she  arrived  on  Sunday  from  England,  thou- 
sands of  people  swarmed  the  wharf  eager  to  glimpse  the  "Divine 
Creature/  Her  carriage  to  the  hotel  could  hardly  make  its  way 
through  the  dense  crowds.  At  night  she  was  serenaded,  and  by 
day  the  Irving  House  was  besieged  by  men,  women  and  children 
anxious  to  peek  at  her."  8 

The  newspapers  estimated  these  crowds  milling  about  her 
hotel  at  thirty  thousand.  They  reported  a  street  fight  growing 
out  of  a  struggle  to  recover  a  peach-stone  which  she  had  sup- 
posedly dropped  from  the  balcony;  the  enterprise  of  a  speculator 
who  had  secured  what  was  declared  to  be  one  of  her  gloves, 
charging  twenty-five  cents  to  kiss  the  outside  of  it,  fifty  cents 
the  inside.  A  competition  for  a  Jenny  Land  prize  song,  won  by 
Bayard  Taylor,  attracted  seven  hundred  and  fifty  entries.  "New 
York  is  conquered,**  the  press  agreed,  "a  hostile  army  or  fleet 
could  not  effect  a  conquest  so  complete."  "The  excitement  is  of 
the  hottest  temperature,"  one  paper  declared.  "It  is  universally 
conceded  that  Jenny  Lind  is  the  greatest  woman,  Barnum  is  the 
greatest  man ...  in  the  world."  Tickets  for  the  first  concert  were 
auctioned  off  at  $225.  Boston  showed  a  supercilious  scorn  for 
such  emotionalism  on  the  part  of  New  York— and  was  soon 
paying  $625  for  the  first  ticket  at  its  own  auction.9 

It  was  inspired  showmanship.  Barnum  knew  his  public  and 
played  upon  its  emotions  with  a  sure  touch.  America  had  not 
seen  Jenny  Lind  (no  more  had  Barnum  before  she  landed  in 
New  York),  had  not  heard  her,  knew  nothing  of  her.  He  pub- 
licized her  beauty,  her  generosity,  her  goodness,  so  eloquently 
that  he  made  her  a  heroine  whom  all  America  could  take  to  its 
sentimental  heart.  The  popularity  of  twentieth-century  movie 
stars  can  hardly  be  compared  with  it.  Accounts  of  Lindomania 
reaching  the  staid  office  of  the  London  Times  aroused  deep  con- 

First  Appearance  of  Jenny  Lind  in  America 

Castle  Garden,  New  York,  September  11,  1850.  Lithograph  by  N.  Currier. 
J.  Clarence  Davies  Collection,  Museum  of  the  City-  of  New  York. 

Jim  Crow 

Thomas  D.  Rice 
on  the  fifty-seventh 
night  of  his  sensa- 
tional success  at  the 
American  Theatre, 
New  York,  Novem- 
ber 25,  1833.  Con- 
temporary painting 
in  possession  of  the 
Museum  of  the 
City  of  New  York. 


Christy's  Minstrels 

Lithograph  by  Sarony  and  Major  after  a  drawing  by  N.  Sarony,   1847. 
J.  Qarence  Davies  Collection,  Museum  of  the  City  of  New  York. 


cern.  If  the  American  people  could  be  so  easily  swayed  by  an 
appeal  to  their  emotions,  they  would  be  at  the  mercy  of  the  first 
political  adventurer  who  attempted  to  exploit  them.10 

Accounts  of  her  first  appearance  at  Castle  Garden  state  that 
seven  thousand  persons  crowded  the  auditorium,  and  when  Jenny 
Lind  appeared  on  the  stage,  demurely  dressed  in  white,  the 
audience  rose  as  one  man  to  greet  her  with  such  prolonged 
cheering,  handkerchief -waving,  and  clapping  that  it  appeared 
doubtful  if  tie  performance  could  ever  get  tinder  way.  She 
sang  "Casta  Diva,"  Rossini's  "I  Turchi  in  Italia,"  the  "Herdsman's 
Song,"  and  the  prize-winning  "Greeting  to  America."  Her  success 
could  not  have  been  greater.  To  Castle  Garden,"  commented  the 
Tribune's  critic,  "is  reserved  the  sublime  spectacle  of  a  whole 

people,  as  it  were,  worshiping  at  the  shrine  of  art Jenny  Lind 

is  evidently  most  herself  and  most  inspired  when  she  sings  most 

That  was  the  symbol  of  her  triumph.  Barnum  knew  very  well 
what  he  was  about.  He  was  not  concerned  with  Jenny  Lind's 
contribution  to  American  music  (although  she  paved  the  way 
for  successful  tours  by  many  other  singers  and  musicians)  or 
with  any  other  phase  of  her  artistic  career.  He  had  sensed  the 
new  market  for  entertainment,  a  market  which  took  in  the  masses 
of  citizenry,  and  he  supplied  a  popular  product.  He  dressed  it 
up  in  the  sort  of  package  that  he  knew  would  please  American 
taste,  and  as  he  traveled  about  the  country  with  his  prima 
donna,  he  lectured  alternate  nights  on  temperance. 

During  her  nine  months*  tour,  visiting  every  major  city  in  the 
United  States,  Jenny  Lind  gave  ninety-five  concerts.  The  gross 
receipts  were  $712,161,  affording  Jenny  Lind  $176,675  and  Bar- 
num (including  expenses)  $535,486.12  Popular  amusement  paid; 
it  was  becoming  big  business.  Nor  did  the  American  people 
criticize  Barnum  for  his  financial  success.  That  he  could  make 
money  out  of  offering  them  entertainment— whatever  it  was— 
endeared  him  even  more  to  them. 


THE  MINSTREL  SHOWS  which  were  so  popular  in  the  1840's  and 
1850's  were  something  far  more  than  an  amusing  act  incorporated 
in  the  program  of  a  variety  bill  or  occasionally  presented  at 
Baraum's  Museum.  They  were  a  unique  form  of  entertainment, 
thoroughly  American  in  their  inspiration,  whose  appeal  was  uni- 
versal. The  gay,  rollicking  walk-arounds,  the  sad,  sweet  notes  of 
the  sentimental  ballads,  the  grotesque  exaggerations  and  tall 
stories,  the  incessant  cross-fire  of  shrewd  jokes,  were  so  native 
to  the  soil  that  the  democracy  crowded  to  hear  them.  The  min- 
strels won  instant  popularity  in  New  England,  spread  throughout 
the  Middle  West,  and  went  to  California  with  the  gold-rush. 
Every  city  had  several  hands  of  black-faced  comedians.  Road 
companies  playing  in  local  halls  or  under  canvas  toured  back 
and  forth  throughout  the  country.  The  most  eminent  in  comedy 
or  tragedy  toiled  with  but  slight  reward,  mourned  an  English 
actor,  while  "fantazias  upon  the  bones,  or  banjo,  have  called 
forth  the  plaudits  of  admiring  thousands."13 

Minstrelsy  made  its  formal  bow  before  an  unsuspecting  public 
when  Dan  Emmetf  s  "novel,  grotesque,  original  and  surpassingly 
melodious  Ethiopian  band,  entitled  the  Virginia  Minstrels," 
opened  at  the  Chatham  Theatre,  in  New  York,  early  in  1843.14 
But  it  had  had  predecessors.  The  most  popular  (for  the  first 
black-face  performer  on  the  American  stage  is  not  known)  was 
the  Jim  Crow  act  of  the  comedian  Thomas  D.  Rice.  From  the 
first  time  it  was  given  (the  records  variously  stating  it  was  at 
Louisville,  Cincinnati,  and  Pittsburgh  about  1829  )15  thunderous 
applause  greeted  the  shuffling  steps  danced  to  the  plaintive 
little  song: 

Wheel  about,  turn  about, 

Do  jis  so, 

An'  ebery  time  I  wheel  about 

I  jump  Jim  Crow. 

It  was  as  popular  in  New  York  and  Boston  as  in  the  cities  of 
the  Mississippi  Valley;  it  was  a  success  in  London.  Joseph  Jeffer- 
son was  introduced  to  the  stage  by  way  of  Jim  Crow.  Rice 


brought  him  on,  aged  four,  in  a  bag  and  dumped  him  on  the 

Ladies  and  gentlemen, 
I'd  have  for  you  to  know, 
Tse  got  a  litde  darky  here 
To  jump  Jim  Crow.16 

The  vogue  for  this  act  had  prepared  the  way  for  the  real 
minstrel  shows.  Their  success,  one  magazine  declared,  was 
"unparalleled  by  any  popular  exhibition  that  has  ever  been  of- 
fered in  New  York." 17  Barnum  early  jumped  aboard  the  band- 
wagon with  his  own  Ethiopian  Serenaders,  but  the  most  famous 
minstrel  band  was  Christy's.  Established  at  Mechanics  Hall  in 
New  York  in  1846,  it  gave  its  "unique  and  chaste*  performance 
almost  nightly  for  a  period  of  ten  years,  drawing  crowds  which 
were  always  enthusiastic  over  the  performers'  tuneful  songs, 
clever  dancing,  and  engaging  humor.  At  one  time  there  were 
some  ten  minstrel  shows  playing  simultaneously  in  New  York; 
Boston  had  several  companies;  and  Cincinnati  was  the  min- 
strelsy center  of  the  West.  The  Kentucky  Minstrels,  Bryant's 
Minstrels,  the  Nightingale  Serenaders,  the  Washington  Utopians, 
the  Sable  Brothers,  Ordway's  Aeolians. . . .  Throughout  the  coun- 
try—traveling "a  world  of  belated  railway  trains,  steamboat 
explosions  and  collisions,  and  runaway  stage  horses"— these  black- 
face comedians  sang  and  danced.18 

From  the  moment  the  interlocutor  gave  his  stentorian  com- 
mand, "Gentlemen,  be  seated,"  and  the  end-men,  resplendent  in 
gaudy  full-dress  suits,  wide  white  collars  setting  off  their  heavily 
blackened  faces,  took  their  places,  happy  audiences  sank  back  to 
revel  in  a  show  whose  spontaneity  removed  it  far  from  the  arti- 
ficialities of  so  much  of  the  contemporary  theatre.  Mistah  Tambo 
and  Mistah  Bones  spoke  the  language  of  the  people— for  all 
their  exaggerated  dialect.  Their  jokes,  timely  and  topical,  were 
meant  to  be  understood  and  laughed  at  by  the  man  in  the  street. 
When  they  sang,  it  was  a  song  all  the  world  knew  and  could 
sing.  Delighted  audiences  stamped  and  cheered  when  the  min- 


strels  swung  into  "The  Essence  of  Old  Virginnv"  or  ''Old  Dan 

Old  Dan  Tucker  was  a  fine  old  man, 

Washed  his  face  in  a  frying  pan, 

Combed  his  hair  with  a  wagon  wheel, 

Died  with  the  toothache  in  his  heel. 

There  were  many  other  favorites:  "Stop  dat  Knockin7  at  My 
Door,"  "Dandy  Jim  of  Caroline,"  "Hard  Times  Come  Again  No 
More,"  "Big  Sunflower,"  "Root,  Hog,  or  Die": 

Tse  de  happiest  darkee  on  de  top  ob  de  earth, 
I  get  fat  as  possum  in  de  time  ob  de  dearth, 
Like  pig  in  a  tater  patch,  dar  let  me  lie, 
Way  down  in  old  Virginny,  where  it's 
Root,  hog,  or  die 19 

The  humor  of  the  old-time  minstrel  show  was  rough  and 
ready,  although  the  essentially  clean  and  moral  atmosphere  of 
the  performance  was  one  of  its  greatest  assets.  The  jigs  and  fancy 
steps  danced  to  tambourine  and  castanets  were  lively  and  amus- 
ing. But  in  its  songs,  minstrelsy  had  something  genuine  and 
enduring.  While  everything  else  about  it  was  ephemeral,  its 
music  won  a  hold  which  it  has  never  lost  It  was  for  these  black- 
face comedians,  these  knights  of  the  burnt  cork,  that  Stephen 
C.  Foster  wrote  "My  Old  Kentucky  Home,"  "Old  Black  Joe," 
"The  Old  Folks  at  Home,"  and  "O  Susanna."  It  was  as  a  minstrel- 
show  walk-around  that  "Dixie,"  written  by  Dan  Emmett,  won 
its  popular  vogue.  Lincoln  heard  it  at  a  performance  in  1860. 
"Let's  have  it  again!"  he  shouted  from  his  box.  "Let's  have  it 
again!"  Within  the  year  Lincoln  was  President  and  "Dixie"  the 
battle-song  of  the  Confederacy.20 

Through  its  songs  the  minstrel  show  has  won  immortality,  but 
in  the  form  in  which  the  nineteenth  century  so  enjoyed  it,  it 
has  almost  completely  faded  away.  The  other  types  of  popular 
entertainment  developing  in  this  period  gradually  expanded,  or 
took  on  new  shapes,  but  Mistak  Tambo  and  Mistah  Bones  are 


to-day  seldom  seen.  The  limitations  of  minstrelsy  were  too 
marked.  There  was  no  room  for  the  change  and  diversification 
that  the  public  in  time  demanded.  There  were  no  women  in  the 
cast  As  interest  began  to  decline  in  the  decade  after  the  Civil 
War,  the  minstrels  drew  further  and  further  away  from  the 
carefree,  homely  atmosphere  of  ihe  plantation  life  they  had 
tried  to  depict  It  had  always  been  fanciful  rather  than  realistic— 
who  can  say  to  what  extent  the  popular  conception  of  Negro 
character  was  framed  by  minstrelsy,  how  influential  it  was  in 
winning  northern  sympathy  for  the  slave?—  but  the  minstrels  of 
the  latter  part  of  the  century  bore  no  relation  whatsoever  to  the 
plantation  blacks.  When  the  slender  thread  that  bound  their 
performances  to  real  life  was  snapped,  their  shows  were  doomed. 

THE  emeus  was  another  form  of  popular  entertainment  now 
gradually  evolving.  It  did  not  spring  full-panoplied  upon  the 
world,  this  dazzling  combination  of  animal  exhibits,  equestrian 
performances,  band  music,  and  crude  comedy.  Nor  was  it  a 
revival  of  those  elaborate  spectacles,  marked  by  the  cruelty  of 
the  gladiatorial  contest,  whereby  the  rulers  of  Rome  had  sought 
to  queS  the  restlessness  of  the  populace.  The  American  circus, 
with  all  its  distinctive  features,  was  a  native  product  It  was  a 
combination  of  the  little  menageries  and  bands  of  itinerant  acro- 
bats which  had  put  on  their  performances  at  the  colonial  taverns 
and  the  more  sophisticated  equestrian  circuses  which  had  been 
staged  in  city  amphitheatres  (the  pit  easily  converted  into  a 
ring)  since  the  close  of  the  eighteenth  century.  It  became  pri- 
marily a  traveling  tent  show,  providing  the  rural  population  with 
an  equivalent  for  the  popular  theatre  and  the  variety-hall.  It 
was  one  answer  to  the  need  for  diversion  of  country  people  who 
found  themselves  isolated  from  the  multiplying  attractions  of 
city  life. 

Among  the  traveling  animal  exhibits  early  in  the  century,  the 
most  ambitious  was  that  of  Hackaliah  Bailey,  of  Somers,  New 


York.  Soon  after  the  War  of  1812  he  toured  New  England  with 
the  famous  elephant  Old  Bet  She  created  a  tremendous  sensa- 
tion; everywhere  crowds  flocked  to  see  her.  To  avoid  giving  a 
free  show  en  route,  Bailey  had  to  travel  by  night  But  learning 
that  the  elephant  was  coming  the  fanners  lined  the  road  with 
huge  bonfires,  and  Old  Bet  literally  traveled  in  a  blaze  of  glory. 
Until  she  met  her  tragic  end— shot  by  an  irate  Maine  farmer 
whose  bigotry  could  not  condone  even  the  exhibition  of  an  ele- 
phant—she had  a  spectacular  success.21 

It  inspired  other  managers  of  traveling  menageries.  They 
began  to  make  more  extensive  tours,  aided  by  the  slow  improve- 
ment of  roads,  and  animal  exhibits  became  a  feature  of  village 
entertainment  Barn  shows  were  given,  with  admission  usually 
12K  cents,  at  which  the  farmers  gaped  wonderingly  at  strange 
apparitions  from  another  world.  Contemporary  notices  tell  of  one 
in  Salem,  Massachusetts,  in  1816  at  which  a  tiger,  buffalo,  and 
dancing  dogs  were  exhibited;  of  another  in  Lawrenceville,  Penn- 
sylvania, twelve  years  later  with  a  bear,  a  wolf,  a  camel,  and  a 

In  this  same  period  acrobats  also  began  to  join  forces  to  travel 
about  the  country  together.  These  little  groups  of  entertainers 
would  send  a  clown  ahead  to  announce  their  coming  with  a  few 
antics  on  the  village  green  (precursor  of  the  circus  parade),  and 
the  performance  would  be  given  at  night  Not  in  a  tent.  A  piece 
of  canvas  would  be  stretched  about  a  small  platform,  the  troupe's 
wagons  drawn  up  to  serve  as  box  seats  at  twenty-five  cents 
apiece;  and  tight-rope  dancer,  juggler,  or  sword-swallower  would 
go  through  his  fascinating  routine  on  a  stage  lit  by  flaring  pine 

For  long  the  menageries  and  the  acrobatic  troupes  maintained 
a  separate  identity.  Sometimes  they  traveled  together,  the  one 
staging  its  performance  in  the  afternoon  and  the  other  in  the 
evening;  but  there  were  two  distinct  shows.  Gradually  they 
began  to  join  forces.  The  proprietors  of  the  menageries  added  a 
few  acrobatic  performers;  managers  of  the  acrobats  included  aoi- 


P I  BARIUM,  ftw  tf.  F«CST  ccxnttt  omcnon          HCNRY.  BARKUK  ^Acea 

Enters  the  Circus  Field 

Lithographed  poster,  about  1840,  Courtesy  of  the  American  Antiquarian 


Circus  Day  in  Chicago 

Parade  passing  the  Sherman  House  at  Clark  and  Randolph  Streets,  about 

1866.   Lithograph  by  Jevene  and  Almini.   Courtesy  of  the   New  York 

Historical  Society. 


mal  exhibits.  A  more  ambitious  Joint  entertainment  developed 
which  was  usually  staged  under  canvas. 

The  country  about  Somers,  New  York,  where  Old  Bet  had  had 
her  start,  became  the  headquarters  for  a  number  of  these  new 
rolling  shows.  They  toured  New  England,  worked  their  way 
south  where  warm  weather  gave  them  longer  playing  seasons, 
and  gradually  crept  westward  toward  the  frontier.  But  these 
pioneers  of  the  circus  had  to  be  both  enterprising  and  daring. 
Traveling  conditions  were  still  difficult,  and  in  the  rural  districts 
the  popular  attitude  was  often  severely  disapproving.  They  had 
to  perform  miracles  in  meeting  the  problem  of  transportation, 
and  they  could  combat  prejudice  only  by  continually  stressing 
the  supposed  cultural  features  of  their  entertainment  It  was 
long  before  a  circus  dared  call  itself  a  circus.  It  clung  to  the 
name  menagerie  which  the  pious  approved,  invariably  adver- 
tising the  performance  as  "a  great  moral  and  educational  ex- 
hibition." It  was  perhaps  from  their  early  association  with  such 
shows  that  James  Fisk  and  Daniel  Drew,  both  circus  men  in 
their  young  days,  learned  the  technique  which  stood  them  in 
such  good  stead  in  their  later  exploitation  of  a  gullible  investing 

By  the  1830's  some  thirty  rolling  shows  were  regularly  touring 
the  country.  Buckley  and  Wick  had  eight  wagons,  forty  horses, 
thirty-five  performers,  and  a  tent  holding  eight  hundred  people. 
Soon  the  Zoological  Institute  advertised  forty-seven  carriages  and 
wagons,  one  hundred  and  twenty  matched  gray  horses,  fourteen 
musicians,  and  sixty  performers.  The  parade  had  by  now  been 
introduced;  the  performers  came  to  town  to  the  blare  of  a  brass 
band.  Still  it  was  not  the  real  circus.  There  was  no  ring;  there 
were  no  riding  acts.2* 

The  final  step  in  the  evolution  of  this  institution,  its  merger 
with  the  equestrian  shows  of  urban  amphitheatres,  took  place 
just  before  mid-century.  The  popular  appeal  of  riding  and 
tumbling  acts  (President  Washington  had  been  an  impressed 
spectator  at  John  Bill  Ricketts*  indoor  circus  in  the  ITOffs)  nat- 


urally  suggested  an  addition  to  the  program  of  the  traveling 
tent  shows.25  The  more  enterprising  managers  introduced  a  ring 
beneath  the  big  top;  the  country  as  well  as  the  city  was  treated 
to  bareback  riding  and  trick  horsemanship.  The  thrills  of  eques- 
trianism supplemented  the  lure  of  wild  animals,  and  the  circus  as 
we  know  it  to-day  at  last  emerged  in  all  its  spangled  glory.26 

The  Mammoth  Circus  of  Howe  and  Mabie— "Greatest  Estab- 
lishment of  its  Kind  in  the  Worlds—ventured  as  far  west  as 
Chicago  in  the  1850's,  and  there  faced  the  unexpected  competi- 
tion of  the  Grand  Olympic  Arena  and  United  States  Circus.  Van 
Amburg  and  Company's  Menagerie— still  advertising  itself  as 
"the  only  moral  and  instructive  exhibition  in  America9*— carried 
east  and  west  its  African  ostriches  nine  feet  high,  its  polar  bears, 
and  Hannibal,  the  world's  largest  elephant  Dan  Rice,  King  of 
American  Clowns,  was  earning  $1,000  a  week  with  his  acrobatic 
nonsense;  the  famous  Herr  Driesbach  was  nonchalantly  having 
his  supper  "at  a  table  set  in  the  den  of  his  animals."  Finally,  in 
1856,  the  Spaulding  and  Roger's  Circus  announced  it  would 
travel  by  railroad,  nine  special  cars:  "team  horses  and  wagons 
won't  do  in  this  age  of  steam."  a7 

Nothing  could  have  been  more  democratic  than  the  circus. 
Traveling  what  was  still  pioneer  country,  Edmund  Flagg  found 
the  little  village  of  Carkmsville,  Illinois,  "absolutely  reeling  under 
the  excitement  of  the  'Grand  Menagerie/  From  all  points  of  the 
compass  men,  women  and  children,  emerging  from  the  forest, 
came  pouring  into  the  place,  some  upon  horses,  some  in  farm 
wagons,  and  troops  of  others  on  foot" 28  Seeing  a  performance 
at  Newport,  Belle  Brittan  wrote:  "Everybody  went— all  classes, 
ages,  colors  and  conditions.  There  were  as  many  as  five  thousand 
people  there,  all  mixed  up  with  the  most  democratic  indiscrimi- 
nation—Fifth  Avenue  belles  sitting  on  narrow  boards  with  their 
dresses  under  their  arms,  alongside  of  Irish  chambermaids  and 
colored  persons  of  all  sizes  and  sexes."  29 

Barnum  now  entered  the  circus  field.  It  was  not  yet  the 
Greatest  Show  on  Earth,  only  a  Grand  Colossal  Museum  and 


Menagerie,  but  nothing  in  the  1850*s  could  rival  it  General  Tom 
Thumb  was  a  first  drawing-card;  there  was  choice  o£  all  the 
freaks  and  curiosities  of  the  American  Museum,  and  a  menagerie 
drawn  from  the  four  quarters  of  the  earth.  Barnum  had  char- 
tered a  ship,  sent  abroad  for  his  own  animals.  It  was  an  epochal 
day  in  circus  history  when  his  ten  elephants,  fresh  from  Ceylon, 
paraded  up  Broadway  harnessed  in  pairs  to  a  gilded  chariot  and 
amid  the  cheers  of  an  immense  crowd  were  reviewed  by  Jenny 
Land  from  the  balcony  of  the  Irving  House.30 


r  •  THE    SAME    PEOPLE    WHO    CROWDED    PIT    AND    GALLERY    AT    THE 

JL  country's  early  theatres,  who  made  up  the  vast  audience  so 
cleverly  exploited  by  Mr.  Barnum,  were  also  responsible  for  the 
beginnings  of  what  are  termed  spectator  sports.  City  crowds  early 
developed  that  habit  of  watching  others  perform  in  the  field  of 
sport  which  has  so  often  given  rise  to  the  charge  that  Americans 
are  a  nation  of  onlookers.  It  was  a  complaint  more  justified  a 
century  ago  than  it  is  to-day.  "Society  would  drop  a  man  who 
should  run  around  the  Common  in  five  minutes/'  declared  Oliver 
Wendell  Holmes,1  but  thousands  flocked  to  watch  some  one  else 
run— to  witness  a  horse-race,  a  boat-race,  or  a  professional  foot- 

The  failure  of  the  increasing  mass  of  urban  dwellers,  of  what- 
ever class,  to  get  outdoors  themselves  did  not  mean  that  the 
American  people  had  lost  the  Anglo-Saxon  love  for  sports.  The 
rise  of  cities  had  broken  the  traditional  pattern  of  recreational 
life.  Restrictions  of  time  and  space,  the  limitations  imposed  upon 
people  crowded  into  small  living  areas  without  parks  or  open 
spaces,  did  not  permit  the  familiar  games  and  athletic  contests  of 
village  life.  And  organized  sports  to  replace  these  informal  pas- 
times were  a  long  time  in  developing,  discouraged  by  those  social 
influences  which  in  every  direction  were  holding  up  the  normal 
expansion  of  recreation. 

Nevertheless,  the  commercial  amusements  whose  rise  we  have 
traced  could  not  wholly  satisfy  the  needs  of  men  who  uncon- 
sciously missed  tihe  wrestling  match,  the  shooting  contest,  the 
foot-race,  in  which  they  themselves  might  have  taken  part  or  at 



least  watched  their  friends  and  neighbors.  Theatrical  entertain- 
ment did  not  offer  the  excitement  of  competition,  of  taking  sides, 
of  betting;  it  did  not  get  one  out  of  doors  and  into  the  open. 
A  people  whose  attitude  was  greatly  influenced  by  the  traditions 
of  a  pioneering  frontier  life  were  restless  under  city  restraints. 
Until  they  found  the  escape-valve  of  new  sports  for  themselves, 
they  eagerly  took  up  the  next  best  thing.  If  they  could  not  play 
or  compete,  they  could  at  least  get  the  thrill  of  vicarious  partici- 
pation by  cheering  on  their  favorites  from  a  grand  stand. 

Crowds  ranging  from  twenty  to  fifty  thousand,  made  up  of  all 
members  of  society,  were  consequently  turning  out  as  early  as 
the  1820's  for  widely  heralded  horse-races,  for  the  regattas  held 
at  cities  along  the  Atlantic  seaboard,  and  for  the  grueling  five- 
and  ten-mile  races  of  professional  runners.  The  available  stands 
would  be  packed,  the  overflow  spreading  to  every  point  of 
vantage.  A  contemporary  newspaper  reporting  on  a  foot-race  in 
1835  declared  that  "it  would  have  required  the  amphitheatre  of 
Titus  to  have  accommodated  all"  2 

The  eagerness  for  such  amusements  was  a  striking  manifesta- 
tion of  changing  times.  "Every  new  attraction  gathers  its  count- 
less throng,"  an  Englishman  commented  on  visiting  New  York 
in  1842,  "as  if  the  people  had  no  other  occupation  than  sight- 
seeing, though  it  is  well  known  that  they  are  among  the  most 
constantly  occupied  and  busiest  people  in  the  world."  3 

How  explain  this  apparent  paradox?  The  city  crowd  was  com- 
posed of  many  elements  quite  unknown  in  that  earlier  period 
when  virtually  the  entire  population  lived  in  the  country.  If  a 
majority  of  all  classes  were  employed  in  various  mercantile  and 
manufacturing  pursuits,  there  were  always  large  numbers  un- 
employed or  at  least  temporarily  not  working.  Periods  of  de- 
pression threw  men  out  of  jobs;  every  city  had  its  influx  of 
immigrants  and  country  boys  looking  for  work  which  took  some 
time  to  materialize  even  under  the  best  conditions;  and  the  sea- 
sonal nature  of  much  employment  accounted  for  a  good  deal  of 
leisure  despite  the  long  hours  of  labor  generally  prevailing.  Also, 


city  life  inevitably  created  a  class  of  ne'er-do-well  floaters  and 
professional  sport  followers  who  swelled  the  ranks  of  the  tem- 
porarily idle. 

All  this  was  new.  It  gave  rise  to  many  problems.  These  restless 
crowds,  with  so  few  opportunities  for  healthy  recreation,  made 
up  the  mobs  through  which  democracy  often  attempted  to  assert 
its  rights.  The  rougher  elements  hung  around  the  bar-rooms. 
They  frequented  the  so-called  sporting-halls  where  cock-fights 
were  staged,  dogs  pitted  against  each  other,  and  "rat  worries" 
held.  They  supplied  the  recruits  for  a  sporting  fraternity  known 
as  "the  fancy**  (from  which  the  word  fan  is  derived),  as  ready 
to  bet  on  a  yacht-race  as  on  a  back-room  game  of  faro  or 
chuck-a-luck.  They  furnished  material  for  the  city's  notorious 
gangs.  They  populated  the  underworld.  And  while  commercial 
sports  were  a  far  from  adequate  answer  to  problems  created 
by  the  new  conditions  of  urban  life,  they  were  at  least  better 
than  saloons  and  pool-rooms  for  the  army  of  discontented  ready 
for  anything  that  promised  to  satisfy  their  thirst  for  amusement. 

In  general,  the  sporting  events  of  the  period  were  professional 
affairs,  put  on,  like  any  other  form  of  public  amusement,  for 
profit.  Proprietors  of  the  resorts  beginning  to  spring  up  on  the 
outskirts  of  the  new  cities  and  owners  of  transportation  facilities 
—stage-coaches,  ferries,  and,  later,  the  railroads— were  the  pioneer 
sports  promoters.  Even  before  they  erected  grand  stands  and 
collected  admission  charges,  they  could  make  money  by  bringing 
large  numbers  of  people  together  for  any  sort  of  race.  There  were 
the  fares  collected  for  ferry  or  omnibus  service,  and  the  profits 
from  drinks  and  refreshments.  The  new  sports  were  promoted 
much  as  the  tavern  sports  of  an  earlier  day  had  been,  with  the 
further  aid  of  professional  gamblers  who  would  put  up  money 
purses  for  the  chance  to  bet. 

Barnum  never  applied  his  talents  to  this  field,  but  he  tells  of 
one  venture  which  reveals  the  indirect  profits,  entirely  apart 
from  possible  admission  charges,  to  be  made  from  staging  such 
outdoor  performances.  Happening  to  pick  up  a  herd  of  about 


fifteen  calf  buffalo  in  the  summer  of  1843,  he  organized  a  great 
buffalo-hunt  and  western-sports  spectacle  which  was  to  be  held 
in  New  Jersey  "on  the  extensive  grounds  and  race  course  of  the 
Messrs.  Stevens,  within  a  few  rods  of  the  Hoboken  Ferry."  It 
was  widely  advertised  that  no  admission  would  be  charged,  and 
in  enthusiastic  response  to  such  an  exceptional  opportunity  for 
a  free  show  some  twenty-f  our  thousand  persons  crossed  the  Hud- 
son to  watch  the  sport.  The  buffaloes,  as  it  turned  out,  were  sick 
and  frightened;  they  could  hardly  be  goaded  into  any  action  at 
all.  But  the  twenty-four  thousand  enjoyed  their  excursion  never- 
theless. Profits?  "I  had  engaged  all  the  ferry  boats  to  Hoboken," 
Barnum  wrote  in  his  autobiography,  "at  a  stipulated  price,  and 
all  the  receipts  on  the  day  specified  were  to  be  mine."  4 

HORSE-RACING,  with  its  traditions  going  back  to  early  colonial 
days,  was  the  first  of  the  popular  spectator  sports.  Widely  pro- 
hibited in  the  early  years  of  the  century,  it  gradually  came  back 
into  favor,  and  city  crowds  naturally  turned  to  the  highly  or- 
ganized meets  which  replaced  the  more  informal  rural  races. 
New  courses  were  established  throughout  the  country,  with 
enlarged  grand  stands  for  paying  customers.  The  early  impetus 
for  racing  had  largely  come  from  the  desire  of  breeders  to  im- 
prove their  stock,  but  a  broader  popular  interest  caused  The  Sp£r# 
of  the  Times,  the  most  important  journal  devoted  to  the  sport, 
to  declare  in  mid-century  that  racing  was  now  mainly,  if  not 
exclusively,  intended  for  the  public  amusement.5 

Every  one  went  to  the  races,  from  the  President  (John  Quincy 
Adams  as  well  as  Andrew  Jackson)  to  newsboys.  There  was  the 
gambling  fraternity,  referred  to  by  Frank  Leslie's  Illustrated 
Newspaper  as  "this  racing  world—  this  huge  agglomeration  of 
gambling  and  fraud,  of  weakness  and  wickedness";  the  fashion- 
able race-track  followers—  "galaxies  of  beauty  and  booty";  and  in 
addition  thousands  of  everyday  working  people.  The  more  strait- 
laced  could  never  countenance  racing:  it  was  damned  forever  by 


the  betting.  But  at  the  new  Fashion  Course  things  were  so  well 
managed  that  Leslie's  stated  in  1856  "that  families  can  visit  the 
races  with  propriety  and  have  no  fear  of  their  sensibilities  being 
shocked  by  improper  exhibitions." 6 

The  crowds  that  attended  the  Union  Course  on  Long  Island 
were  the  largest  at  any  track.  A  series  of  North-South  matches 
held  there  aroused  a  nation-wide  excitement  which  drew  visitors 
from  all  over  the  country.  In  1823  a  crowd  variously  estimated 
at  from  fifty  to  one  hundred  thousand,  including  some  twenty 
thousand  out-of-town  visitors,  turned  out  to  see  the  famous  race 
between  Eclipse  and  Sir  Henry  which  has  come  down  in  sport- 
ing annals  as  one  of  the  great  events  of  the  century.  It  was  for 
a  purse  of  $20,000  a  side,  to  be  decided  by  two  out  of  three 
four-mile  heats.  When  the  northern  horse,  Eclipse,  won  the  final 
heat,  the  huge  crowd  went  wild.  The  air  was  now  rent  with 
shouts  of  extacy  from  the  New  Yorkers,  and  the  press  around  the 
judges*  stand  for  a  short  time  was  so  great  that  nothing  could 
overcome  it."  7 

Later  races  drew  almost  as  many  spectators.  When  Fashion 
and  Peytona  met  in  1845,  a  wide-eyed  reporter  from  the  Herald 
(which  brought  out  extras  between  the  heats)  informed  his 
paper  that  fifty  thousand  persons  had  crossed  the  East  River  by 
noon,  while  the  roads  were  still  so  densely  packed  with  omni- 
buses and  hacks  that  many  of  the  spectators  would  never  get 
near  the  course.8  Another  time  transportation  facilities  appear 
to  have  been  even  more  seriously  overtaxed.  "The  tens  of  thou- 
sands of  the  sovereign  people  who  wished  to  see  this  race/*  a 
spectator  wrote,  "made  their  arrangements  to  go  by  railroad  from 
the  South  Ferry,  but  the  numbers  were  so  great  that  the  loco- 
motives refused  to  draw.  They  balked  and  would  not  go  ahead; 
the  mob  who  had  provided  themselves  with  tickets,  finding  it 
was  'no  go*  became  riotous,  upset  the  cars,  placed  obstructions 
in  the  rails,  and  induced  all  sorts  of  violence."  g 

Racing  flourished  in  all  parts  of  the  country  except  New 
England.  The  South  and  West  were  great  centers  for  the  sport. 

I  £ 

1  t* 





kit/  Safoli-  d  01« 

'Hie  Old  Gray  Mare  of  Long  Island"  at  St  Louis,  1851,  in  her  nineteenth 

year  still  doing  the  mile  in  2;33  to  siy.  Painting  by  R.  S,  Hillman  in  the 

collection  of  Harry  T,  Peters, 


And  if  the  best-known  courses  after  those  of  New  York  were 
at  Washington,  Louisville,  Cincinnati,  and  New  Orleans,  other 
widely  scattered  tracks  held  race  meets  which  became  a  dis- 
tinctive feature  of  community  life.  Those  at  Nashville,  Tennessee, 
drew  immense  crowds  from  all  the  western  country.  When 
Andrew  Jackson's  Truxton  beat  out  Captain  Joseph  Erwin's 
Ploughboy,  the  future  President  declared  there  was  on  hand 
"the  largest  concourse  of  people  I  ever  saw  assembled,  unless  in 
an  army."10  The  races  of  even  the  small  towns  beyond  the 
Mississippi  were  drawing  considerable  crowds  by  the  1850's.  The 
Wichita  Eagle  reported  one  at  which  over  a  thousand  men  were 
present—  "besides  some  five  carriage  loads  of  soiled  doves."  ai 

Even  more  popular  than  running  races  was  the  distinctively 
American  sport  of  trotting  matches.  In  addition  to  their  place  on 
the  schedules  of  all  regular  tracks,  they  had  become  by  mid- 
century  almost  the  most  important  feature  of  country  fairs. 
Even  New  England  welcomed  this  sport.  At  a  trotting  car- 
nival and  horse  show  held  in  Massachusetts  in  1856  there  was 
a  daily  attendance  of  thirty  thousand,  including  "the  very  cream 
of  the  Boston  population.**12  Thousands  upon  thousands  who 
cared  not  a  whit  for  running  horses  were  eager  spectators. 
Among  others,  such  famous  trotters  of  the  period  as  Tacona, 
Lady  Suffolk,  and  Flora  Temple  were  known  the  length  and 
breadth  of  the  land;  the  most  famous  of  sulky-drivers,  Hiram 
Woodruff,  was  a  national  hero.  As  the  record  for  the  mile  was 
progressively  lowered  to  under  2:20  minutes,  an  English  expert 
simply  refused  to  believe  it  had  been  done.  "I  apprehend  no 
horse  ever  did,  or  could  trot  over  the  measured  English  mile  in 
that  short  space  of  time,"  he  scornfully  wrote.  "From  the  ex- 
tensive rapidity  of  his  trot  his  feet  would  be  apt  to  strike  fire  and 
set  him  ablaze."  13 

ROWING  and  sailing  regattas  had  a  very  unusual  place  in  the  life 
of  the  times.  While  many  of  the  boat-races  were  for  sweepstakes 


and  involved  heavy  betting  on  the  merits  of  the  rival  craft  as  well 
as  rival  crews,  amateur  contests  brought  out  tremendous  crowds 
which  found  them  a  thrilling  spectacle.  Members  of  the  clubs 
that  staged  these  events  were  of  the  wealthy  class.  The  Castle 
Garden  Amateur  Boat  Club  Association  was  restricted,  in  the 
1830*8  and  1840's,  to  "young  men  of  the  highest  respectability,  who 
were  determined  to  combine  with  pleasure  the  utmost  propriety 
of  conduct."14  Membership  in  the  yacht  clubs  even  more  in- 
evitably meant  social  position..  But  tradespeople  and  mechanics 
who  could  never  expect  to  pull  an  oar  in  a  racing-barge  or  hold 
the  tiller  of  a  sailing-yacht  were  perfectly  free  to  watch  their 
regattas.  A  race  in  Boston,  calling  out  eighty-odd  entries;  a 
match  between  two  lap-streak  gigs  from  among  Philadelphia's 
forty  rowing  clubs;  the  races  of  oarsmen  in  Baltimore,  Charleston, 
New  Orleans;  a  long-heralded  contest  between  one  of  New 
York's  eight-oared  barges  and  a  boat  from  St.  John's,  Newfound- 
land—all these  events  meant  crowded  water-fronts.15 

In  1824  a  boat-race  in  New  York  harbor  for  a  $1,000  purse 
attracted  a  throng  estimated  by  the  Evening  Post  at  fifty  thou- 
sand. The  victory  of  the  winning  Whitehall  boat  was  acclaimed 
as  a  baseball  world's  championship  might  have  been  a  century 
later,  its  crew  appearing  at  the  Park  Theatre  to  receive  a  tre- 
mendous ovation.16  Some  years  later  a  regatta  of  the  New  York 
Yacht  Club,  which  was  organized  in  1844,  found  the  harbor 
filled  with  excursion  steamers  and  other  craft,  all  with  "densely 
packed  masses  of  pleasure  seekers,"  while  the  piers  of  lower 
New  York,  Jersey  City,  and  Staten  Island  were  crowded  with 
"multitudinous  and  vociferous  citizens/'17  In  mid-century  the 
fever  spread  to  inland  cities— Chicago,  Pittsburgh,  St.  Louis— 
and  regattas  at  such  widely  separated  points  as  Portland,  Maine, 
and  Milwaukee,  Wisconsin,  were  watched  by  twenty  thousand  to 
thirty-five  thousand  spectators.18 

"The  beauty  and  the  fashion  of  the  city  were  there,9*  reads  the 
description  of  a  regatta  at  Louisville  on  July  4,  1839;  "ladies  and 
gentlemen,  loafers  and  laborers,  white  folks  and  'niggers/  steam- 


boat  cooks,  scullions,  cabin  boys,  mates,  passengers,  and  cap- 
tains, and  all  the  paraphernalia  of  a  city  life  on  an  Independence 
Day,  formed  the  constituent  parts  of  the  heterogeneous  mass  that 
stood  jammed  and  crowded  upon  the  levee.'*  19  And  that  same 
year  a  spectator  at  the  annual  regatta  at  Newburgh,  New  York, 
wrote  of  how  "the  innumerable  windows  of  the  Warehouses  and 
Factories  were  crowded  with  ladies  .  .  .  every  piazza  and  house- 
top was  stirring  with  animated  beauty—  the  locks  and  steamboats, 
and  the  rigging  of  sloops  and  schooners,  were  all  crowded  with  an 
indescribable  mass  of  men,  women  and  children  of  all  ranks 
and  all  ages."20 

THE  FOOT-RACES  were  wholly  professional  events,  and  the  runners 
of  the  day  (pedestrians  as  they  were  called)  had  large  numbers 
of  followers  who  gambled  heavily  on  their  prowess.  The  races 
were  at  first  run  through  city  streets,  men  on  horseback  riding 
ahead  to  open  lanes  through  the  dense  crowds  of  onlookers,  but 
their  popularity  soon  led  to  their  being  moved  to  race-courses 
where  admission  could  be  charged.  Great  excitement  was  aroused 
in  New  York  in  1885  by  the  offer  of  a  $1,000  purse  for  any  man 
who  could  run  a  ten-mile  course  in  under  an.  hour.  'Without 
intending  it  by  any  means,"  wrote  Philip  Hone,  "when  I  arose 
this  morning  I  found  myself  with  Robert  in  the  barouche,  en- 
veloped in  clouds  of  dust  ...  on  the  road  to  the  race  course, 
jostled  by  every  description  of  vehicle,  conveying  eveiy  descrip- 
tion of  people."  He  thought  the  total  attendance  approached 
that  at  the  race  between  Eclipse  and  Sir  Henry,  although  it  was 
probably  nearer  twenty  or  thirty  thousand.  When  one  of  the 
nine  starters  completed  the  course  in  just  under  the  stipulated 
hour,  the  crowd  went  wild,  while  the  winner  jumped  on  a  horse 
and  rode  triumphantly  around  the  track.21 

Individual  match  races,  growing  out  of  challenges  flying  back 
and  forth  among  the  professional  runners,  were  most  common, 
"Thomas  Wood,  of  East  Cambridge,'*  reads  a  typical  announce- 


ment  in  the  new  sporting  journal,  the  New  York  Clipper,  in  1856, 
"will  run  Joe  Travis,  three  or  five  miles  for  $250  a  side.  Man  and 
money  ready  at  Adams  Billiard  Hall."  There  were  scores  of 
popular  champions:  Henry  Stannard,  the  man  who  had  run  the 
ten-mile  event  in  under  an  hour;  William  Jackson,  the  American 
Deer,  who  was  disastrously  defeated  by  the  English  runner  John 
Barlow;  the  Welsh  Bantam,  the  Worcester  Pet,  the  Boston  Buck, 
the  Bunker  Hill  Boy.  .  .  .  Each  "ped"  had  his  own  colors—  a  gaily 
hued  shirt,  and  in  one  case  red  shoes  tipped  with  blue.22 

PRIZE-FIGHTING  was  not  really  a  spectator  sport  in  this  period: 
"We  are  not  yet  fashionable  enough,"  Niles*  Weekly  Register 
commented  sarcastically,  "for  such  things  in  the  United  States.''  23 
But  despite  the  brutality  which  everywhere  placed  it  under 
official  ban,  fights  surreptitiously  staged  by  "the  fancy"  were 
beginning  to  attract  ever-widening  notice.  The  champions  were 
winning  a  popular  following  for  all  the  disapproval  voiced  by 
the  more  respectable  elements  of  society. 

"The  amusement  of  prize  fighting,"  again  to  quote  Philip  Hone, 
that  estimable  diarist  of  so  many  phases  of  New  York  life,  Tias 
become  one  of  the  most  fashionable  abominations  of  our  loafer 
ridden  city.  Several  matches  have  been  made  lately.  The  parties, 
their  backers,  betters,  and  abettors,  with  thousands  and  tens  of 
thousands  of  degraded  amateurs  of  this  noble  science,  conveyed 
by  steamboats  chartered  for  the  purpose,  have  been  following  the 
champions  to  Staten  Island,  Westchester,  and  up  the  North  River, 
out  of  the  jurisdiction  (as  was  supposed)  of  the  authorities 
of  New  York;  and  the  horrid  details,  with  all  their  disgusting 
technicalities  and  vulgar  slang,  have  been  regularly  presented  in 
the  New  Yorfc  Herald  to  gratify  the  vitiated  palates  of  its  readers, 
whilst  the  orderly  citizens  have  wept  for  the  shame  which  they 
could  not  prevent"  24 

There  was  no  denying  the  brutality  of  old-style  bare-knuclde 
fighting.  It  was  as  cruel  as  the  gouging  match  of  the  frontier, 

i;;vfeX  ••:;';,  i. 

'  "  '      '&'$'"  ;?•'.'.  '•"     • 

Boat-Race  on  the  Charles  River,  Boston 
Ballou's  Pictorial  Drawing-Room  Companion,  1857. 

A  Great  Foot-Race  at  Hoboken 
Illustrated  London  News,  1845. 



sometimes  quite  literally  being  a  fight  to  the  death.  A  con- 
temporary account  tells  of  one  bout  in  which  for  almost  three 
hours  two  bruisers  "thumped  and  battered  each  other  for  the 
gratification  of  a  brutal  gang  of  spectators,"  until  after  being 
knocked  down  eighty-one  times,  one  of  them  fell  dead  in  the 
ring.25  There  was  no  science  in  this  fighting:  a  pugilist's  greatest 
asset  was  his  ability  to  take  punishment.  With  little  thought  of 
self-defense,  his  one  object  was  to  pummel  the  other  fellow  into 

Police  regulations  forced  secrecy  upon  the  promoters,  and 
actual  attendance  at  the  bouts  was  consequently  small.  It  was  not 
until  some  time  after  gloves  were  substituted  for  bare  fists  and  the 
Marquis  of  Queensberry  rules  had  been  adopted  that  prize- 
fighting was  legally  approved.  When  Yankee  Sullivan  and  Tom 
Hyer  fought  their  championship  bout  in  1849,  they  had  to  hold 
it  in  the  woods  on  Maryland's  Western  Shore,  having  been  driven 
away  from  the  chosen  site,  Peel  Island,  by  a  boatload  of  militia. 
A  few  years  later  the  fight  in  which  Hyer  lost  the  championship 
to  John  Morrissey  was  held  under  equally  furtive  circumstances, 
while  the  latter's  successful  defense  of  his  title  against  John  C 
Heenan,  "Benicia  Boy,"  took  place  before  two  thousand  spec- 
tators who  had  sailed  over  from  Buffalo  in  three  steamers  to  a 
point  on  the  Canadian  border.26 

The  growing  attraction  of  prize-fighting,  with  its  primitive 
appeal  even  for  those  who  were  shocked  by  its  brutality,  was 
graphically  displayed  on  the  eve  of  the  Civil  War  in  tibe  universal 
interest  aroused  by  Heenan's  challenge  of  the  English  champion, 
Tom  Sayers.  Although  he  had  not  beaten  John  Morrissey,  the 
latter's  retirement  from  the  ring  left  TBenicia  Boy"  undisputed 
champion,  and  the  good  wishes  of  all  America  followed  him  to 
England.  His  name  was  on  everybody's  lips— Concord  philos- 
opher and  Nevada  miner,  New  York  newsboy  and  Ohio  farmer. 
What  were  his  chances?  Could  he  stand  up  against  Sayers? 
"Benicia  Boy9*  himself  was  confident.  Vanity  Fair  published  his 


111  wind  our  colors  'round  my  loins— 
The  blue  and  crimson  bars— 

And  if  Tom  does  not  feel  the  stripes, 
111  make  hire  see  the  stars!  27 

The  country  breathlessly  awaited  the  outcome.  It  was  inde- 
cisive. Historians  of  the  prize-ring  still  quarrel  over  who  might 
have  won  if  the  crowd  had  not  broken  up  the  fight  in  the  forty- 
third  round.  But  TBenicia  Boy"  was  the  hero  of  the  day.  The 
Spirit  of  the  Times,  getting  out  an  extra  edition  of  one  hundred 
thousand  copies  with  the  first  report  of  the  fight,  hailed  him  as 
the  world  champion.28 

Upon  his  return  to  this  country  Heenan  began  giving  boxing 
exhibitions.  They  drew  the  crowds  that  prize-fighting  itself  could 
not  command  because  of  its  illegality.  In  Boston  some  twelve 
thousand  persons  turned  out  to  see  the  champion,  while  a  boxing 
festival  he  staged  at  Jones  Woods,  outside  of  New  York,  attracted 
thirty  thousand,26 

THESE  spectator  sports  of  the  first  half  of  the  nineteenth  century, 
harbingers  of  the  tremendous  development  of  this  type  of  amuse- 
ment in  later  years,  were  at  best  but  a  poor  substitute  for  games 
or  athletic  contests  in  which  the  spectators  themselves  might 
have  actively  participated.  But  again  it  must  be  remembered 
that  city  crowds  a  century  ago  had  no  ready  means  for  getting 
out  into  the  country—  either  by  street-car  or  automobile.  Our 
whole  modern  organization  of  sports,  together  with  parks  and 
public  playing-fields,  was  completely  unknown.  The  idle  city 
worker  who  did  not  spend  the  afternoon  at  the  race-track,  watch- 
ing a  boat-race,  or  cheering  his  favorite  "ped"  was  driven  to  some 
indoor  amusement.  The  habit  of  watching  professional  athletes 
fastened  itself  upon  the  city  dweller  a  century  ago  because  he 
had  almost  no  other  alternative  for  daytime  recreation. 

These  spectator  events  nevertheless  helped  to  make  possible 
the  rise  of  modern  organized  athletics  and  the  public  participa- 


tion  of  later  decades.  The  interest  in  professional  running  in  the 
1840Ts  provided  the  impetus  for  the  growth  of  amateur  athletic 
organizations  in  the  ISTO's.  The  crowds  drawn  to  regattas  created 
an  ever-widening  interest  in  rowing  and  sailing.  The  immense 
vogue  for  trotting  matches  inspired  every  horse-owner  to  see  if 
he  could  not  develop  a  champion;  it  crowded  the  roads,  town 
and  country,  with  drivers  always  ready  for  a  "brush"  with  friend 
or  neighbor.  Even  pugilism  led  in  time  to  the  development  of 
boxing  as  a  popular  pastime  for  young  men  and  boys.  These 
activities  of  a  century  ago  promoted  the  audience  habit,  but  they 
also  played  their  part  in  maintaining  an  interest  in  sports  for 
themselves  which  was  soon  to  have  a  phenomenal  flowering. 


broader  opportunities  for  recreation  among  the  -well-to-do. 
They  began  to  give  increasingly  elaborate  balls  and  entertain- 
ments. When  Charles  Dickens  landed  in  New  York,  the  great 
Boz  Ball— "the  tallest  compliment  ever  paid  a  little  man,  the 
fullest  libation  ever  poured  upon  the  altar  of  the  muses/*  as 
Philip  Hone  described  it— was  attended  by  twenty-five  hundred 
persons  representing  the  world  of  society.  The  decorations  were 
scenes  from  Pickwick  Papers,  and  tableaux  vivants  were  pre- 
sented of  Nicholas  NicJdeby,  Oliver  Twist,  and  The  Old  Curi- 
osity Shop,  Supper  was  enlivened  with  quantities  of  champagne. 
It  was  an  occasion  typifying  a  new  measure  of  sumptuous  dis- 
play in  American  social  life.1 

There  was  also  a  growing  enthusiasm  for  yachting,  inspired 
by  the  memorable  victory  of  the  America  in  the  first  interna- 
tional cup  race;  an  increasing  vogue  for  driving  in  summer  and 
sleighing  in  winter;  and  greater  interest  in  field  sports.  Game- 
hunting  had  always  been  popular  in  the  South.  It  had  long  been 
commended  in  Baltimore  for  drawing  the  young  gentlemen  of  the 
town  into  the  open  fields  "where  no  man  ever  contracted 
dyspepsia,  or  imbibed  an  ignoble  passion."  Wealthy  eastern 
sportsmen— and  visiting  Englishmen— now  went  to  the  Far  West 
to  shoot  elk  and  buffalo.2 

More  significant  was  the  beginning  of  pleasure  travel  and  the 
growth  of  summer  resorts-  New  turnpikes  and  canals,  the  steam- 
boat and  tie  railroad,  -were  working  revolutionary  changes  in 
American  life  which  affected  recreation  as  well  as  business  and 



industry.  In  1825  the  appearance  of  a  little  booklet  called  'The 
Fashionable  Tour"  had  signalized  the  new  trend,  and  Timothy 
Flint  declared  that  the  better  classes  were  carrying  their  desire 
for  travel  "to  a  passion  and  a  fever." 3  It  was  soon  possible  for 
even  the  less  well-to-do  to  undertake  trips  of  which  an  earlier 
generation  would  hardly  have  dreamed.  "There  is  scarcely  an 
individual  in  so  reduced  circumstances,"  marveled  one  foreign 
visitor,  "as  to  be  unable  to  afford  his  'dollar  or  so/  to  travel  a 
couple  of  hundred  miles  from  home,  in  order  to  see  the  country 
and  the  improvements  which  are  going  on.** 4 

The  establishment  of  summer  resorts  came  as  a  direct  result 
of  these  improved  means  of  transportation,  and  the  fashionable 
world  rapidly  made  them  popular.  It  flocked  to  the  new  watering- 
places,  turning  what  had  been  quiet  little  havens  for  invalids 
into  bustling  social  centers.  Nahant,  near  Boston,  began  to  ad- 
vertise "its  sports  and  fare"  for  vacation  visitors.  Newport  re- 
sumed its  role  of  colonial  days,  attracting  a  larger  and  larger 
summer  population  until  in  mid-century  the  New  York  Herald 
disagreeably  declared  that  "fashion,  handmaid  of  vice,  has  set 
her  seal  upon  the  escutcheon  of  this  town."  New  Jersey  offered 
Cape  May  and  Long  Branch.  New  York  had  the  most  fashionable 
of  all  resorts  of  this  period  in  Saratoga  Springs,  where 

Hotels  of  vast  Extent  at  length  arose, 
In  whose  capacious  bosoms  were  receiv'd 
Of  guests  the  copious  streams,  that  hither  flow'd 
From  various  regions. . .  ,6 

Easterners  were  naturally  in  a  majority  among  the  visitors  at 
these  resorts,  but  every  westerner  with  social  aspirations  labored 
under  the  necessity  of  staying  for  a  time  at  one  of  them,  and  the 
wealthy  plantation-owners  of  the  South  made  a  virtual  hegira 
north  every  summer.  Until  the  bitterness  aroused  over  the  slavery 
issue  caused  them  to  stay  at  home,  at  some  such  southern  resort 
as  White  Sulphur  Springs,  some  fifty  thousand  southerners  were 
said  to  visit  the  northern  states  annually.8 


Many  of  these  visitors  were  not  so  much  seeking  rest  or  amuse- 
ment as  the  establishment  of  their  position  in  the  social  world. 
Resort  life  reflected  the  confused  gropings  of  society  toward  a 
new  order,  and  itself  contributed  to  the  decline  of  former  dis- 
tinctions. The  elegant  hotels  at  Saratoga  or  Newport  attracted 
people  who  formerly  would  have  vacationed  in  the  country  only 
at  exclusive  house-parties,  and  the  socially  ambitious  saw  their 
opportunity.  "Hundreds,  who,  in  their  own  towns  could  not  find 
admittance  into  the  circles  of  fashionable  society,"  James  Silk 
Buckingham  observed  in  1838,  ". . .  come  to  Saratoga  where . . . 
they  may  be  seated  at  the  same  table,  and  often  side  by  side, 
with  the  first  families  of  the  country." 7 

On  the  deep  verandahs  of  the  huge,  sprawling  Congress  House 
or  United  States  Hotel  (accommodations  for  two  thousand),  on 
the  neat  gravel  walks  cutting  across  Saratoga's  well-mowed 
lawns,  might  be  seen  "the  fairest  sample  of  the  better  class 
throughout  the  United  States. . . .  What  bustle,  and  display,  and 
expense,  and  frivolity!"*  The  frock-coated  Washington  poli- 
tician tipped  his  tall  silk  hat  to  modish  ladies  in  billowing  hoop- 
skirts;  the  smart  New  Yorker  in  tight-fitting  trousers  and  flowery 
waistcoat,  inordinately  proud  of  his  curled  whiskers,  bowed  to 
blushing  southern  belles  in  beribfaoned  satin  bonnets.  "All  the 
world  is  here,"  marveled  Philip  Hone  on  visiting  Saratoga  in 
1839;  "politicians  and  dandies;  cabinet  ministers  and  ministers 
of  the  gospel;  officeholders  and  office  seekers;  humbuggers  and 
humbugged;  fortune  hunters  and  hunters  of  woodcock;  anxious 
mothers  and  lovely  daughters;  the  ruddy  cheek  mantling  with 
saucy  health,  and  the  flickering  lamp  almost  extinguished  be- 
neath the  rude  breath  of  dissipation."  9 

Flirtation  was  a  major  amusement.  The  Courting  Yard  was 
an  institution  at  Saratoga;  White  Sulphur  Springs  had  its  "Billing, 
Wooing  and  Cooing  Society."  There  was  not  much  else  to  do. 
Cards  and  backgammon,  bowling  and  billiards  were  possible, 
but  none  of  the  outdoor  sports  to-day  associated  with  the  sum- 
mer resort.  Exercise  was  still  unfashionable.  There  was  not  even 

A  Yachting  Club  on  Ule  Erie 

an  unknown  artist,  about  1870,  owned  by  A,  Hyatt  Mayor. 
Courtesy  of  the  Metropolitan  Museum  of' Art, 


the  horse-racing  of  a  later  day.  The  gentlemen  whiled  away  long 
hours  in  smoke-filled  bar-rooms  over  their  gin  slings,  sangarees, 
sherry  cobblers,  and  mint  juleps.  The  ladies  were  relegated  to  the 
piazza,  or  possibly  allowed  an  afternoon  carriage  drive.  Nowhere 
were  the  restraints  of  the  Victorian  era,  the  respect  for  female 
delicacy,  more  rigidly  observed.  "Our  amusements  were  simple 
and  distinctly  ladylike,"  Eliza  Ripley  recalled  of  resort  life  at 
Pass  Christian,  on  the  Gulf  of  Mexico.  "There  was  no  golf  or 
tennis,  not  even  the  innocent  croquet,  to  tempt  the  demoiselles  to 
athletics." 10 

Two  French  visitors  found  this  life  unutterably  dull.  "People 
rise  early,'*  Achille  Murat  wrote  of  Saratoga,  "go  and  drink, 
or  make  believe  drink,  of  the  water  at  the  fountain;  return  to 
breakfast  in  common;  the  papas  and  mamas  are  ready  to  die 
with  ennui  all  the  day;  the  young  ladies  play  music,  the  young 
gentlemen  make  love  to  them;  from  time  to  time  some  excursion 
is  made  in  the  neighborhood;  in  the  evening  comes  dancing. 
People  are  very  soon  tired  of  this  sort  of  life.11  Michael  Chevalier 
even  more  devastatingly  summarized  a  day's  program  at  Bedford 
Springs.  He  wondered  how  its  visitors  could  get  any  possible 
satisfaction  out  "of  gaping  on  a  chair  in  the  piazza  the  whole 
day;  of  going  arms  in  hand  (I  mean  the  knife  and  fork)  to  secure 
their  share  of  a  wretched  dinner;  of  being  stifled  in  the  crowd  of 
the  ball-room  during  the  evening,  and  of  sleeping,  if  it  is  possible, 
upon  a  miserable  pallet  in  a  cell  echoing  one's  tread  from  its 
own  floor  of  pine  boards." 12 

The  evening  hop  or  Saturday-night  ball  nevertheless  made  up 
for  a  good  deal  of  the  day's  deficiencies.  The  introduction  of  such 
exciting  new  dances  as  the  waltz  and  the  polka  had  given  the 
ball-room  a  new  popularity.  Although  there  was  shocked  criti- 
cism from  those  who  clung  to  puritanic  traditions,  the  pulpit 
holding  forth  bitterly  "against  the  abomination  of  permitting  a 
man  who  was  neither  your  lover  nor  your  husband  to  encircle 
you  with  his  arms,  and  slightly  press  the  contour  of  your  waist," 13 
these  importations  won  their  way  into  society.  The  New  York 


Herald  might  rave  about  "the  indecency  of  the  polka  as  danced 
at  Saratoga  and  Newport It  even  outstrips  the  most  disgrace- 
ful exhibitions  of  the  lowest  haunts  of  Paris  and  London,"14 
but  the  floor  would  be  crowded  on  a  Saturday  night  The  com- 
pany whirled  away  the  evening  in  grand  style  until  it  settled 
down  to  its  midnight  supper  of  champagne,  ice-cream,  and 

At  the  shore  resorts  there  was  one  diversion  that  such 
watering-places  as  Saratoga  lacked.  This  was  sea  bathing.  Oc- 
casional references  to  it  may  be  found  in  earlier  days.  A  Mr. 
Bailey  planned  to  institute  "bathing  machines,  and  several  species 
of  entertainment"  at  his  resort  on  Long  Island  in  1794.15  A  few 
years  later  a  hotel  proprietor  at  Nahant  advertised  ^a  machine  of 
peculiar  construction  for  bathing  in  the  open  sea." 16  But  not  until 
much  later  were  the  first  daring  steps  taken  toward  popularizing 
it  as  a  sport  for  mixed  company. 

An  early  record  of  this  is  found  in  a  description  of  Long  Branch 
written  by  James  Stuart  in  1829.  "Because  of  the  swell,"  wrote 
the  circumspect  Mr.  Stuart,  "females  are  often  afraid  to  venture 
into  the  sea  with  a  female  bathing  woman,  and  on  that  account 
prefer  the  assistance  of  a  man.  This  custom,  which  is  very  far 
from  being  general,  has  given  rise  to  ill-founded  stories  of  want 
of  delicacy  on  the  part  of  American  females.  The  fact  -is,  I  be- 
lieve, exactly  as  I  have  stated  it,  and  the  parties  always  go  into 
the  water  completely  dressed.** 1T 

A  few  years  later  a  correspondent  of  Frank  Leslies  Illustrated 
Newspaper  described  the  costumes  that  accounted  for  Stuart's 
phrase,  "completely  dressed."  "Some  wear  Bloomers,  buckled 
nattily  about  the  waists,  with  cunning  little  blue-veined  feet 
twinkling  in  the  shallow  water/*  he  wrote;  "some  are  wrapped 
in  crimson  Turkish  dressing  gowns,  and  flounder  through  the 
water  like  long-legged  flamingoes;  and  others  in  old  pantaloons 
and  worn-out  jackets.**  Bathing-suits,  it  would  appear,  had  not 
yet  been  invented,  and  after  lunch  there  was  a  gentleman's  hour, 
as  our  correspondent  phrased  it,  "sans  costume.** 1S 


Prejudice  against  mixed  bathing  gave  way  slowly.  But  soon 
visitors  to  Newport  told  of  parties  of  ladies  and  gentlemen  dash- 
ing out  "hand  in  hand,  sometimes  forty  of  them  together,  into 
the  surf  upon  the  beach."  They  described  with  engaging  en- 
thusiasm how  the  men  "handed  about  their  pretty  partners  as  if 
they  were  dancing  water  quadrilles.7*19  "I  do  not  believe,7*  a 
writer  in  the  New  York  Herald  lyricaHy  reported  in  1853,  "that 
Franconi's  Hippodrome  ever  presents  a  gayer,  more  grotesque 
and  animated  scene  than  I  witnessed.  Hundreds  of  bathers, 
clad  in  garments  of  every  shape  and  color—  green,  blue,  orange 
and  white—  were  gaily  disporting  before  me,  and  within  a  few 
yards  of  my  window.  The  blooming  girl,  the  matronized  yet 
blushing  maiden,  the  dignified  mamma,  were  all  playing,  danc- 
ing, romping,  and  shouting  together,  as  if  they  were  alive  with 
one  feeling.  I  noticed  several  ladies  of  admirable  shapes  ____  Oh! 
ye  happy  waves,  what  a  blissful  destiny  is  yours,  when  you  can 
enclasp  and  kiss  such  lovely  forms.7920 

IN  THE  MISSISSIPPI  VALLEY  the  flush  times  of  mid-century  were 
marked  by  a  spirit  of  boisterous  gaiety  which  held  its  ground 
firmly  against  the  pressure  of  those  civilizing  influences  curbing 
the  old  sports  and  diversions  of  the  frontier.21  The  Great  River 
was  an  artery  for  amusements  as  well  as  commerce.  Palatial 
steamers  made  their  perilous  way  back  and  forth  between  St. 
Louis  and  New  Orleans,  their  passengers  gaily  dancing  on  the 
hurricane-deck  and  gambling  in  the  saloon;  gaudy  show-boats— 
the  Snow  Queen  or  the  Fanny  Elssler—  tied  up  eveiy  night  at 
village  landings,  with  uniformed  bands  announcing  their  coming, 
and  traveling  entertainers  of  every  kind  brought  to  the  river 
towns  dazzling  visions  of  the  outside  world.  Farce  and  melo- 
drama, musical  extravaganza,  elaborate  minstrel  shows,  were 
staged  in  the  gilded  concert-saloons.  Less  ambitious  entertainers 
went  from  town  to  town  by  smaller  steamer.  Aboard  one  of 
them  Thackeray  saw  a  bearded  lady  who  in  shipboard  life 


delicately  concealed  her  hirsute  growth  beneath  a  red  silk  hand- 

In  the  1850's  some  two  thousand  professional  gamblers  were 
operating  on  the  river  boats.23  There  has  always  been  a  great 
deal  of  gambling  in  American  life,  from  colonial  lotteries  to  the 
present-day  policy-game,  but  never  has  this  major  diversion 
flourished  so  mightily  as  in  those  booming  days  of  the  Mississippi 
Valley.  Faro,  monte,  and  chuck-a-luck  were  the  favorite  card 
games.  Poker  had  been  introduced  by  way  of  New  Orleans  and 
was  soon  to  make  its  way  still  farther  west  For  those  who  wanted 
to  lose  their  money  with  even  less  effort,  the  steamers  had  their 
full  quota  of  three-card  monte-throwers,  dice-coggers,  and 
thimble-riggers.  The  Mississippi  River  travelers  do  not  seem  to 
have  ever  caught  on  to  the  old  shell-game. 

They'd  just  flutter  them  up  like  a  flock  of  quail,"  one  traveler 
wrote  of  the  skilful  way  the  gamblers  handled  their  cards,  "and 
get  the  aces,  kings,  queens,  jacks  and  tens  all  together  as  easy  as 
pie.  A  sucker  had  no  more  chance  against  those  fellows  than  a 
snow-ball  in  a  red-hot  oven."24  But  it  was  not  entirely  skill. 
The  professional  gentlemen  of  chance  freely  availed  themselves 
of  the  wares  advertised  by  a  certain  Monsieur  Grandine:  "Advan- 
tage and  Marked-Back  Playing  Cards ...  an  exact  imitation  of  the 
fair  Playing  Cards  in  use,  and  are  adapted  for  bluff  or  poker, 
Seven-Up,  Forty-Five,  Euchre,  Cribbage,  Vingt-et-un,  or  Twenty- 
One,  Loo. . .  .**  Monsieur  Grandine  was  also  obligingly  ready  to 
provide  "sleeve  machines"  which  held  the  cards  in  a  most  nat- 
ural manner  and  allowed  them  to  slip  out  perfectly  noiselessly.25 

The  gamblers  had  a  well  recognized  costume— black  slouch 
hat,  broadcloth  coat,  flowing  tie,  black  high-heeled  boots,  white 
shirt  elegantly  frilled  and  ruffled,  gaudy  vest,  and  invariably  a 
large  diamond  in  the  shirt-front  and  a  massive  gold  watch  and 
chain.  They  were  the  aristocrats  of  the  river,  making  fortunes  in 
fleecing  the  innocent,  and  then  as  promptly  losing  them  at  faro 
establishments  in  New  Orleans.  One  of  the  best-known  of  them, 
George  H.  Devol,  has  left  in  his  Forty  Years  a  Gambler  on  the 


Mississippi  an  engaging  record  of  adventures  which  often  in- 
volved hasty  dives  overboard  when  his  victims  discovered  they 
had  been  tricked.  Usually  he  was  ready  to  defend  himself,  "I 
was  always  very  stubborn,"  he  admits,  "about  giving  up  money  if 
any  one  wanted  to  compel  me  to  do  it,"  On  one  occasion  his 
victim  tried  to  call  his  bluff:  "He  took  off  his  coat,  and  after  he 
got  it  off  he  weakened,  and  picked  up  a  big  iron  poker  that  lay 
by  the  stove.  I  pulled  out  old  'Betsy  Jane/  one  of  the  best 
tarantula  pistols  in  the  Southern  country. , . ."  And  so  Mr.  Devol 
kept  his  winnings. 

Three-card  monte  always  got  them,  ministers  and  all,  this 
hardened  soul  declared.  "I  caught  a  preacher  once  for  all  his 
money,  his  gold  spectacles,  and  his  sermons.  Then  I  had  some 
of  those  queer  feelings  come  over  me ...  so  I  gave  him  his 
sermons  and  specs  back."  26 

Away  from  the  river  there  were  other  amusements— political 
rallies,  horse-races,  dancing  assemblies,  the  theatre,  and  traveling 
shows  from  eastern  cities.27  The  local  paper  of  one  small  Ohio 
town  recorded  the  visit  of  Swiss  bell-ringers,  an  exhibition  of  dis- 
solving views  by  the  aid  of  a  magic  lantern,  "the  inimitable 
Winchell,"  a  panorama  of  the  Mississippi  Valley  half  a  mile  long 
and  twelve  feet  high,  "J.  H.  Green,  Reformed  Gambler,  with 
card  tricks,"  Joe  Ginger's  Minstrels,  and  "Moxon  &  Kemp's  Great 
Eastern  Circus,  Five  Nations,  and  a  Steam  Calliope  drawn  by 
forty  horses." 2S 

The  moving  panorama,  exhibited  not  only  in  western  towns 
but  in  eastern  cities,  was  almost  the  equivalent  of  the  later-day 
moving  picture.  The  Mississippi  Valley  exhibition  just  noted 
toured  the  entire  country,  was  advertised  in  New  York  as  one  of 
the  great  attractions  of  the  age,  and  disappeared  from  the  Amer- 
ican scene  only  when  it  was  taken  abroad,  to  Europe  and  the 
Far  East,  for  still  further  conquests.  Many  others  were  widely 
known:  the  "Classical  Panorama  of  Roman  Histoiy,"  the  "Sacred 
Panorama  of  Pilgrim's  Progress,"  the  "Moving  Mirror  of  the 
Overland  Route  to  California."  The  long  rolls  of  painted  canvas 


were  slowly  unwound  before  admiring  audiences  as  a  lecturer 
described  the  background  for  the  scene  depicted.  In  the  dioramas 
these  scenes  were  made  to  change  and  dissolve  into  each  other 
by  means  of  cloth  transparencies  and  complicated  overhead  light- 
ing effects.29 

On  the  sod-house  frontier,  opening  up  in  Kansas  and  Nebraska, 
life  was  incredibly  hard—  bitter  winters  with  sweeping  snow- 
storms, summers  of  searing  drought,  devastating  plagues  of 
locusts,  and  always  the  terrible  isolation  of  the  prairies.  Strong- 
willed  settlers  struggled  against  immense  odds  to  build  a  familiar 
life  against  an  unfamiliar  background.  But  they  early  had  their 
amusements.  Lawrence,  Kansas,  had  a  bowling-alley  within  a 
few  months  of  its  being  sacked  in  the  free-soil  struggle;  the 
People's  Press  of  Nebraska  City  declared  a  few  years  later  that 
"the  fever  is  now  for  billiards."  80  There  was  a  theatre  of  sorts 
at  Leavenworth  in  1858  which  welcomed  to  its  boards  a  minstrel 
show,  the  New  England  Bards,  a  troupe  of  saxhorn  players,  and 
a  circus. 

Marked  differences,  of  course,  still  existed  between  East  and 
West,  between  the  long-serfled  communities  on  the  Atlantic  sea- 
board and  these  rapidly  growing  states  of  the  Mississippi  Valley. 
But  improved  means  of  transportation  and  closer  communications 
gradually  promoted  a  uniformity  in  modes  and  manners  which 
was  directly  reflected  in  amusements.  Whatever  was  in  vogue 
in  commercial  entertainment  in  New  York  or  Philadelphia 
eventually  made  its  way  west;  social  life  in  western  cities  and 
towns  aped  that  of  eastern  cities  as  much  as  it  could;  and  as 
other  forms  of  recreation  developed  on  the  seaboard,  they,  were 
rapidly  transferred  to  the  Mississippi  Valley  and  beyond. 

THE  SOCIAL  UFE  of  the  South  throughout  the  first  half  of  the 
nineteenth  century,  and  until  the  outbreak  of  the  Civil  War,  is 
generally  viewed  through  a  haze  of  romantic  glamour.  The  pat- 
tern is  all  too  familiar:  gay  young  couples  dancing  on  the 


Sleighing  in  New  York 

Lithograph  by  Nagel  and  Lewis,  composed  and  lithographed  by  Theodore 
Benecke,  1855.  Courtesy  of  Harry  T.  Peters. 

A  Home  on  the  Mississippi 

Painting  by  an  unknown  artist,   about  1850,   owned  by  Mrs.   Alice  T. 
M'cLean.  Courtesy  of  the  Metropolitan  Museum'  of  Art. 

The  Turkey 

Painting  by  Charles 
Deas,  about  1836, 
Rutherford  Stuy- 
vesant  Collection. 
Courtesy  of  the 
Metropolitan  Mu- 
seum of  Art. 


colonnaded  porches  of  the  "big  house"  as  moonlight  floods 
through  the  magnolia  trees;  race  meets  and  fox-hunts;  barbecues 
and  oyster  suppers;  the  cool  tinkle  of  mint  juleps  . . .  and  carefree, 
happy  slaves  singing  spirituals  as  they  picked  the  cotton  that 
made  possible  this  leisured,  luxurious  way  of  life. 

With  what  acute  nostalgia  did  Thomas  Nelson  Page,  only  one 
of  a  host  of  reminiscent  southern  writers,  look  back  upon  such 
scenes.  Here  is  a  gay  picnic,  carriages  laden  with  "precious  loads 
of  lily-fingered,  pink-faced,  laughing  girls  with  teeth  like  pearls 
and  eyes  like  stars,"  and  gallant  riders  bursting  with  southern 
chivalry  "who  would  have  thrown  not  only  their  cloaks  but  their 
hearts  into  the  mud  to  keep  these  dainty  feet  from  being  soiled." 
The  social  life  of  Dixie?  "It  made  men  noble,  gentle  and  brave, 
and  women  tender  and  pure  and  true. ...  It  has  passed  from  the 
earth,  but  it  left  its  benignant  influence  behind  it  to  sweeten  and 
sustain  its  children.  The  ivory  palaces  have  been  destroyed,  but 
myrrh,  aloes  and  cassia  still  breathe  amid  their  dismantled 

It  is  true  that  there  were  a  grace  and  dignity,  and  at  the  same 
time  a  gay  spirit,  about  life  in  the  ante-bellum  South  which  were 
swept  away  in  the  cataclysm  of  civil  war.  The  comfortable  mode 
of  living  and  easy  acceptance  of  everything  that  contributed  to 
amusement  had  continued  over  from  colonial  days  on  the  great 
plantations.  "Leisure  and  ease  are  inmates  of  his  roof,"  one 
northern  visitor  wrote  of  the  southern  aristocrat  "He  takes 
no  note  of  time.  Your  Yankee  will  take  time  by  the  forelock, 
and  push  business  through.  But  a  Southerner  never  heard  of  the 
'old  man  with  a  scythe/"  And  he  went  on  to  note  that  under 
these  circumstances,  so  foreign  to  the  bustling  life  of  the  North, 
recreation  played  a  different  role.  Where  life  had  a  more  definite 
pursuit,  it  was  perhaps  not  so  necessary— "but  here,  where  one 
finds  golden  leisure,  amusements  are  indispensable."82 

Other  records  tell  of  these  amusements.  Heniy  Barnard,  a 
young  northerner  visiting  in  a  southern  family,  wrote  home 
enthusiastically  of  the  lavish  hospitality  at  "Shirley,"  the  planta- 


tion  of  Hill  Carter  on  the  James  River.33  Susan  Dabney  Smedes 
has  depicted  in  glowing  colors  the  life  at  "Burleigh,"  in  Missis- 
sippi, with  its  music  and  dancing,  charades  and  cards,  riding  and 
driving.8*  Herbert  Ravenel  Sass  recalls  the  house-parties,  the 
deer-hunts,  the  chivalric  tournaments  (costumed  knights  jousting 
with  their  ladies'  colors  on  their  sleeves),  which  enlivened  the 
long,  languorous  days  on  South  Carolina^  rice  plantations.35  For 
the  wealthy  planters  in  all  parts  of  the  South,  and  especially  in 
those  states  newly  carved  out  of  the  western  wilderness  to  grow 
the  cotton  which  brought  them  such  dazzling  prosperity,  life  had 
a  flavor  in  mid-century  known  to  no  other  part  of  the  country. 

But  it  concerned  only  that  small  group  at  the  apex  of  the 
pyramid  that  made  up  southern  society.  It  was  no  more  typical 
o£  Dixie  than  the  crowded  ball-rooms  of  Saratoga  were  represen- 
tative of  recreation  in  the  North.  What  of  the  great  mass  of 
southern  yeomanry,  small  farmers  still  working  their  own  land? 
What  of  the  poor  whites,  that  pitiful  class  of  "vagrom-men,  idlers, 
and  squatters,  useless  to  themselves  and  the  rest  of  mankind**? 
And  what  of  the  slaves?  The  majority  of  people  in  the  South 
had  little  direct  contact  with  the  life  of  the  great  plantations. 
Nowhere  were  class  lines  drawn  more  rigidly;  nowhere  was  there 
a  greater  gulf  between  the  different  strata  of  society. 

The  statistics  of  that  "peculiar  institution"  on  which  southern 
life  was  based  rudely  shatter  many  legends.  At  the  close  of  the 
ante-bellum  period,  some  three-fourths  of  the  white  population 
had  no  proprietary  interest  in  slavery  whatsoever.  They  were 
humble  folk,  largely  engaged  in  grubbing  out  a  living  on  their 
own  small  farms,  in  bitter  competition  with  the  slave  labor  they 
could  not  themselves  command.  There  were  in  all  only  some 
fifty  thousand  estates  on  which  there  were  as  many  as  twenty 
slaves.  The  entire  planter  class  totaled  but  a  quarter  of  a  -million 
among  the  South's  eight  million,  white  population.86 

The  slaves  and  the  poor  whites— it  is  difficult  to  say  which 
class  should  be  considered  as  the  lowest  order  of  society— could 
enjoy  only  such  amusements  as  their  owners  or  abject  poverty 


permitted  them.  In  the  case  of  the  former,  conditions  greatly 
varied.  They  often  went  out  with  their  masters  on  moonlight 
'possum-  and  'coon-hunts;  they  were  among  the  spectators  at 
horse-races  and  cock-fights.  On  many  of  the  plantations  they 
were  given  free  rein  on  such  festive  occasions  as  holidays  or 
weddings  to  enjoy  themselves  with  music  and  dancing,  with 
contests  in  clogging,  cakewalks,  and  Charlestons.  To  see  a  group 
of  them  on  the  floor/'  wrote  an  entranced  northerner,  "or  on  the 
lawn,  beneath  the  shade  of  the  China-trees,  when 

Hornpipes,  jigs,   strathspeys  and  reels 
Put  life  and  mettle  in  their  heels 

whirling  in  the  giddy  mazes  of  the  dance  with  their  buxom 
dulcineas,  each  seeming  to  vie  with  the  other  in  dancing  the 
most;  it  is  one  of  the  finest  specimens  of  animated  nature  I  ever 
gazed  upon. . . .  No  restraint  of  the  etiquettish  ball-room . . . 
whew!  They'd  burst  like  steamers. . . .  What  luxury  of  motion, 
what  looks— breath  ing  and  sighs!  what  oglings,  exclamations  and 
enjoyment!  This  is  dancing.  It  knocks  the  spangles  off  your  light 
fantastic  tripping,  and  sends  it  whirling  out  of  the  ball-room." 3T 
Sometimes  a  Baptist  revival  would  induce  the  Negroes  to 
forswear  dancing  and  music— "I  done  buss'  my  fiddle  an'  my 
banjo,  and  done  fling  'em  away"— but  there  was  no  restraining 
them  for  very  long.  God  could  not  blame  them  for  such  simple 
amusements.  The  Negro  preacher  explained  it  in  his  Christmas 

Des  dance  befcase  dey's  happy—like  de  birds  hop  in  de  trees, 
De  pine-top  fiddle  soundin*  to  be  blowin*  ob  de  breeze.38 

Wherever  the  master  did  not  approve,  however,  there  would 
be  no  dancing  and  no  banjo-playing  in  the  slave  quarters,  no 
time  for  hunting  or  fishing.  In  many  instances  the  slaves  were 
harshly  or  cruelly  treated,  deprived  of  much  more  than  the 
opportunity  to  play.  That  is  the  other  side  of  the  picture  of 
plantation  life  in  old  Dixie.  But  even  where  they  were  well  taken 


care  of  and  allowed  such  amusements  as  did  not  interfere  with 
their  work,  there  could  be  no  real  freedom  for  enjoyment.  The 
pleasures  of  the  slave  were  always  wholly  dependent  on  the  will 
of  his  owner. 

The  poor  whites  had  the  leisure  and  freedom  that  the  blacks 
so  often  lacked,  but  their  leisure  was  born  of  complete  poverty 
and  unwillingness  to  work.  They  were  the  forgotten  men  in  this 
thriving  Kingdom  of  Cotton,  isolated  in  the  pine-barrens  or  the 
back-country  mountain  areas.  The  chronic  disease  that  made 
them  so  lazy  and  apathetic,  that  drove  them  to  become  clay- 
eaters,  was  not  then  recognized  as  hookworm.  Fanny  Kemble 
sorrowfully  characterized  them  as  "the  most  degraded  race  of 
human  beings  claiming  Anglo-Saxon  origin  that  can  be  found  on 
the  face  of  the  earth."89  "Even  their  motions  are  slow,  and 
their  speech  is  a  sickening  drawl,"  wrote  D.  R.  Hundley,  a  good 
Alabaman,  ". . .  while  their  thoughts  and  ideas  seem  likewise  to 
creep  along  at  a  snail's  pace.  All  they  seem  to  care  for  is  to  live 
from  hand  to  mouth;  to  get  drunk ...  to  shoot  for  beef;  to  attend 
gander  pullings;  to  vote  at  elections;  to  eat  and  sleep;  to  lounge 
in  the  sunshine  of  a  bright  summer's  day,  and  to  bask  in  the 
warmth  of  a  roaring  fire,  when  summer  days  are  over."  40 

Here  were  amusements,  perhaps,  but  the  amusements  of  idle- 
ness and  debility.  They  did  not  awaken  in  the  dulled  minds  of 
the  poor  whites  any  zest  for  living.  Among  the  slum  outcasts  of 
the  industrial  North  might  be  found  men  and  women  for  whom 
life  offered  as  little  as  it  did  for  these  unfortunates.  But  there 
was  this  marked  difference:  the  North  was  slowly  awakening 
to  the  needs  of  its  depressed  classes;  the  South  was  blind  to  the 
degraded  status  of  the  poor  whites. 

Between  the  wealthy  planter  and  the  Mississippi  hillbilly  or 
Florida  clay-eater  there  was  an  impassable  gulf.  The  self- 
respecting  southern  yeoman,  sometimes  working  in  the  fields 
side  by  side  with  a  Negro  slave  whom  he  either  owned  or  hired, 
had  at  least  some  opportunity.  He  might  conceivably  make  his 
way  into  the  planter  class.  But  in  his  own  life  he  had  little  con- 


tact  with  his  social  superiors.  Susan  Dabney  Smedes  recalled 
that  the  Christmas  egg-nog  party  that  was  always  given  at 
"Burleigh"  for  the  overseer  and  "other  plain  neighbors"  was  one 
of  the  few  occasions  when  plantation  life  and  that  of  the  small 
farmers  overlapped.*1 

For  these  people,  bound  to  the  soil  and  hard  pressed  to  earn 
a  livelihood,  hunting  and  fishing  were  still  the  most  universal 
recreation.  They  also  had  their  occasional  farm  festivals— corn- 
shuckings  and  cotton-pickings  enlivened  by  persimmon  beer  or 
jugs  of  whisky— and  annual  country  fairs  and  militia  musters. 
There  were  horse-races  and  cock-fights,  sometimes  a  circus  or 
other  traveling  entertainment  The  latter  were  rare.  In  the  little 
town  of  Tarboro,  North  Carolina,  there  was  but  one  such  show 
in  1832,  and  twenty  years  later  only  five— three  concerts,  an  ex- 
hibition of  curiosities,  and  a  circus.  Many  of  the  frontier  customs 
lingered  on  in  the  back  country.  Rough  sports  and  heavy  drink- 
ing vied  with  the  camp-meeting.42 

One  pastime  peculiar  to  this  part  of  the  country  was  gander- 
pulling.  The  Dutch  settlers  in  New  York  had  practised  this  sport, 
and  there  was  to  be  a  later  variation  of  it  on  the  western  prairies, 
but  here  it  had  a  much  stronger  hold  among  the  common  people. 
A  well  greased  gander  was  strung  head  down  from  the  over- 
hanging bough  of  a  tree.  One  by  one  the  contestants,  mounted 
on  horseback,  would  ride  full  speed  under  the  struggling  bird, 
trying  to  seize  it  by  its  slippery  neck  as  they  tore  by.  The  man 
who  made  off  with  the  goose's  head  was  declared  the  winner.  A 
contemporary  record  describing  gander-pulling  in  North  Carolina 
declares  that  it  was  "anticipated  with  rapture  by  all  bruisers 
either  at  fist  or  grog,  all  heavy  bottomed,  well  balanced  riders, 
all  women  who  wanted  a  holiday  and  had  the  curiosity  to  see 
the  weight  and  prowess  of  their  sweethearts  tried  in  open 

Augustus  Baldwin  Longstreet  singles  out  dancing  as  a  fa- 
vorite amusement.  In  his  Georgia  Scenes  he  describes  the  dinner 
out  under  the  trees,  the  old  Negro  sawing  on  his  fiddle,  the  awk- 


ward  farm  boys  and  fresh-cheeked  girls.  It  was  all  simple  and 
wholesome.  The  women  "used  no  artificial  means  of  spreading 
their  frock-tails  to  an  interesting  extent  from  their  ankles.  They 
had  no  boards  laced  to  their  breasts."  As  for  the  dances  them- 
selves, "none  of  your  immodest  waltzes;  none  of  your  detestable, 
disgusting  gallopades."  44r 

Sometimes  there  were  plank  dances.  "You  stand  face  to  face 
with  your  partner  on  a  plank  and  keep  on  dancing,"  a  countryman 
explained  to  one  visiting  northerner.  "Put  the  plank  up  on  two 
barrel  heads,  so  itTl  kind  of  spring.  At  some  of  our  parties— 
that's  among  common  kind  o'  people,  you  know,  it's  great  fun. 
They  dance  as  fast  as  they  can,  and  the  folks  all  stand  around  and 
holler,  'Keep  it  up,  John!'  'Go  it,  Nance!*  'Don't  give  it  up  so!' 
'Old  Virginny  never  tire!'  *  'Eel  and  toe,  ketch  a-fire!'  and  such 
kind  of  observation,  and  clop  and  stamp  'em."  45 

Diversions  of  this  character  represented  the  recreation  of  the 
people  of  the  South  more  faithfully  than  the  formal  balls,  the 
fashionable  picnics,  the  chivalric  tournaments  of  the  planters. 
But  the  opportunities  to  enjoy  them  were  few  and  far  between. 
The  common  man  had  a  hard  time.  For  him  the  slavery  that 
brought  wealth  and  leisure  to  the  aristocracy  meant  a  more 
narrowly  circumscribed  life,  greater  toil,  and  even  less  chance 
than  had  the  small  fanners  of  the  North  and  West  for  real 
amusement  Not  for  him  the  frosted  julep  on  a  shaded  porch;  he 
was  busy  picking  cotton. 

THROUGHOUT  the  land,  holidays  were  a  great  occasion  in  the 
mid-century  years.  In  town  and  country,  east  §md  west,  these  in- 
frequent breaks  in  a  life  which  for  the  worldngman  might  still 
mean  twelve  hours'  daily  labor  for  six  full  days  a  week  were 
seized  upon  with  a  zest  that  this  age  can  hardly  appreciate. 
They  meant  far  more  than  they  do  in  a  day  when  every  week- 
end is  free  for  recreation,  and  they  were  enj'oyed  in  great  crowd 


A  parade  almost  invariably  led  off  the  day's  festivities.  Every 
one  turned  out— the  militia  companies  in  their  handsome  uni- 
forms, the  patriotic  societies  and  political  clubs,  the  volunteer 
firemen  in  glistening  helmets  and  flaming  red  shirts.  The  gen- 
eration of  the  1850's  was  fascinated  by  parades;  a  band  stirred 
urban  crowds  even  more  than  it  does  to-day.  At  election  time— 
and  there  was  no  more  exciting  holiday— the  streets  of  every 
town  and  city  would  be  filled  with  rival  marchers.  Torch-light 
parades  added  a  new  zest  to  the  absorbing  game  of  politics 
which  neither  young  nor  old  could  resist.  On  other  occasions  the 
crowds  gathered  to  watch  and  cheer  military  parades  with  a 
fervor  which  was  the  essence  of  the  period's  intense  nationalism. 
There  was  no  artificiality,  no  regimentation,  about  the  public 
demonstrations  of  the  young  democracy. 

In  the  cities  the  parade  was  often  followed  by  a  mass- 
meeting  or  public  banquet;  in  the  rural  areas  there  were  picnics 
and  barbecues  to  which  the  entire  countryside  flocked.  Scores 
of  aspiring  Daniel  Websters  orated  eloquently  to  the  great 
crowds  gathered  on  New  England  village  greens;  innumerable 
Davy  Crocketts  attempted  to  spellbind  their  audiences  as  the 
oxen  roasted  at  frontier  barbecues.  Hogsheads  of  punch  or 
rum  or  whisky  were  consumed  in  toasts  to  the  Universal  Yankee 
Nation.  Horse-races,  impromptu  sports,  dancing  to  patriotic 
airs,  were  throughout  the  entire  country  a  prelude  to  the  night's 
fireworks  displays. 

The  urban  dweller  also  had  his  amusement  park.  The  social 
world  was  being  forced  to  share  its  near-by  country  retreats  with 
working  people.  On  a  visit  to  Hoboken's  Elysian  Fields,  Fanny 
Kemble  was  amazed  to  find  the  resort  crowded  with  people 
from  a  quite  different  stratum  of  society  from  that  of  her  own 
party.  "Journeymen,  labourers,  handicraftsmen,  tradespeople, 
with  their  families,  bearing  all  in  their  dress  and  looks  evident 
signs  of  well-being  and  contentment,"  she  wrote,  "were  all  flock- 
ing from  their  confined  avocations  into  the  pure  air,  the  bright 
sunshine  and  beautiful  shade  of  this  lovely  place."  **  There  was 


no  parallel  in  England  to  such  a  scene.  It  went  far  toward  recon- 
ciling Miss  Kemble  to  the  crudities  of  American  democracy. 
Children  played  on  the  swings,  visited  the  bear  dens,  and  enjoyed 
Punch  and  Judy  shows  as  their  parents  picnicked  and  listened 
to  the  band  music.  The  fastidious  Samuel  Dexter  Ward  noted 
"that  there  were  a  great  many  people  here,  male  and  female,  but 
in  my  opinion  few  respectable  ones/* 47  The  exclusiveness  of  an 
earlier  day  was  gone. 

Steamboat  excursions  enjoyed  an  immense  popularity.  Sir 
Charles  Lyell  noted  that  the  passengers  on  Hudson  River  boats, 
on  week-days  as  well  as  holidays,  were  veiy  largely  shopkeepers, 
artisans,  and  mechanics  taking  pleasure  trips.48  Horace  Greeley, 
worrying  over  the  $10  weekly  budget  of  a  New  York  working- 
man,  wondered  where  he  could  get  the  money  for  his  Sunday 
trip  up  and  down  the  river  to  get  some  fresh  air.  Here  was  a 
new  means  of  recreation,  and  the  common  man  was  taking  full 
advantage  of  it.49 

The  New  York  Herald  advertised  dozens  of  holiday  excursions 
for  which  the  fare  was  never  more  than  $1.00.  One  could  cruise 
to  Coney  Island,  already  starting  on  its  career  as  a  popular  resort, 
for  fifty  cents,  visit  the  Lower  Bay  and  Staten  Island  for  twenty- 
five  cents,  and  sail  up  river  from  the  Battery  to  Harlem  for 
twelve  and  one-half  cents.  Sometimes  the  excursions  were  or- 
ganized by  special  groups.  The  Shamrock  Benevolent  Society 
and  the  Laborers*  Union  Benevolent  Society  had  annual  Inde- 
pendence Day  outings.  On  one  occasion  the  Thistle  Benevolent 
Society  gave  a  Grand  Excursion  and  Cotillion  Party  aboard  the 
steamboat  Robert  L.  Stevens  and  an  accompanying  barge.  The 
moonlight  return  down  the  river  from  West  Point,  the  barge's 
deck  cleared  for  dancing  and  the  band  playing  gaily,  rockets 
cutting  their  flaring  paths  of  light  across  the  sky,  was  a  fitting 
climax  to  a  day  of  enthusiastic  festivities.50 

Balloon  ascensions  drew  great  crowds.  They  may  be  traced 
back  to  the  close  of  the  eighteenth  century,  when  President 
Washington  was  an  eager  spectator  at  Blanchard's  stirring  flights. 

T/ie  Fashionable  Singing  Class 

Leslie's  Gazette  of  Fashions,  1862. 

The  Dance 

Lithograph  by  E.  B.  and  E.  C.  Kellogg,  about  1852.  Courtesy  of 
Harry  T.  Peters. 


In  the  1830*8  Charles  F.  Durant  was  charging  fifty  cents  admission 
for  "the  inspiring  spectacle"  of  his  embarkation.  As  the  band 
played,  he  distributed  copies  of  an  appropriate  poetical  address, 
stepped  into  the  cage  of  his  balloon,  and,  waving  an  American 
flag,  started  aloft  to  the  booming  of  guns.  Some  years  later  John 
Wise  had  become  the  popular  aeronaut.  He  provided  twenty 
thousand  seats  at  the  scene  of  ascension,  including  in  the  price 
of  admission  souvenir  watches  and  jewelry.51 

Every  place  of  entertainment  in  the  cities  would  be  filled  on 
holidays.  People  crowded  the  open-air  gardens  to  hear  band 
music  and  watch  the  fireworks.  In  New  York's  City  Hall  Park 
scores  of  booths  would  be  set  up  to  cater  to  holiday  needs.  Here 
were  roast  pig  and  spruce  beer,  lemonade  and  boiled  eggs, 
lobsters  and  mint  juleps,  myriads  of  pies  and  cakes.  The  band 
played,  and  again  there  were  free  fireworks.53 

Public  balls,  the  populace's  equivalent  for  the  assemblies  and 
cotillions  of  society,  were  coming  into  favor.  The  popular  clubs 
vied  with  each  other  in  staging  entertainments  for  which  gen- 
eral admission  might  range  from  twenty-five  cents  to  $1,00,  the 
latter  price  usually  including  a  gentleman  and  two  ladies.  Mr. 
Parker's  ball  at  Tammany  Hall,  the  Third  Ward  American  Re- 
publican Ball  at  the  Minerva  Assembly  Rooms,  the  Native  Amer- 
ican Ball  at  the  Park  Theatre,  were  New  York  affairs,  but  they 
had  their  counterpart  in  every  town  and  city  throughout  the 

Less  respectable  were  the  dance-halls— "branches  of  Satan's 
den,"  the  puritans  termed  them;  the  cheap  variety  shows,  twelve 
cents  admission  with  refreshments;  the  free  and  easy  concert- 
saloons,  which  became  especially  popular  in  Philadelphia;  and 
the  beer-gardens  where  the  growing  German  population  was 
giving  the  country  a  taste  for  lager  beer.  These  were  the  amuse- 
ments already  beginning  to  shock  rural  communities— the  dread- 
ful lure  of  the  wicked  city;  but  they  were  a  part  of  the  recreation 
of  great  masses  of  the  people.54 

Of  all  the  holidays,  democracy  took  over  especially  for  its  own 


the  Fourth  of  July.  On  this  day  of  all  others  it  paraded  with 
riotous  enthusiasm,  cheered  itself  hoarse,  drank  a  thousand  pa- 
triotic toasts;  listened  eagerly  at  banquets,  barbecues,  and  picnics 
to  the  flamboyant  oratory  of  an  age  which  could  get  drunk  almost 
as  easily  on  words  as  on  whisky;  crowded  the  circus  tent, 
museum,  minstrel  show,  and  popular  theatre;  overran  the  amuse- 
ment parks  and  packed  the  holiday  steamboat  excursions; 
watched  horse-races,  sailing  regattas,  and  pedestrian  races; 
danced  on  the  open  prairie,  at  country  taverns,  and  in  crowded 
city  dance-halls;  fired  off  cannon  and  watched  the  sly  redden 
with  the  fireworks  of  a  nation  still  young  enough,  careless 
enough,  exuberant  enough,  to  take  the  keenest  joy  in  this  fervid 
expression  of  patriotism  and  high  spirits. 

The  American  people  never  indulge  in  a  holiday?  Too  ab- 
sorbed in  money-making  to  let  themselves  go?  The  caustic  Eng- 
lish critics  of  the  first  half  of  the  nineteenth  century  must  have 
shut  themselves  into  ivory  towers  on  the  Fourth  of  July.  The 
crowd  of  ladies  and  gentlemen,  loafers  and  laborers,  white  folks 
and  "niggers,"  who  jammed  the  Louisville  levee  to  watch  an  Inde- 
pendence Day  regatta;  the  two  thousand  people  who  gathered 
on  the  Nebraska  plains  for  a  barbecue  and  night-long  dance, 
feasting  on  enough  buffalo,  venison,  sheep,  hogs,  and  pigs  to  have 
fed  the  whole  territory;  the  holiday  seekers  overrunning  the 
swings,  flying  deer,  bowling-alleys,  and  target  ranges  of  city 
amusement  parks— were  they  too  dull-spirited  and  depressed 
ever  to  enjoy  themselves? 

Tit  was  remarkable  for  the  general  turn  out  of  all  classes, 
ages,  sexes,  and  conditions,"  the  New  Yorfc  Herald  ecstatically 
reported  of  one  Fourth  of  July  celebration;  "it  was  remarkable 
for  the  most  splendid  pageant  ever  displayed  in  this  city  since 
the  war;  it  was  remarkable  for  the  extraordinary  amusements  and 
recreations  of  the  day,  not  the  least  of  which  was  the  exhibition 
of  the  tall,  the  graceful,  the  majestic,  the  beautiful  giraffes;  and 
for  the  elegant  display  of  beautiful  women  that  grouped  within 
the  pleasure  gardens  of  Niblo,  at  Vauxhall,  at  Castle  Garden,  at 


the  Museums,  at  the  Theatres,  or  at  the  Cotillion  parties,  in  the 
numerous  aquatic  excursions  in  the  evening.** 55 

Not  enjoy  themselves?  The  American  people  were  gradually 
breaking  down  the  one-time  exclusive  barriers  in  the  world  of 
amusements.  Michael  Chevalier  had  declared  democracy  to  be 
"too  new  a  comer  upon  the  earth  to  have  been  able  as  yet  to  or- 
ganize its  pleasures  and  amusements.**  It  was  doing  so  now,  as  he 
had  advised,  without  regard  to  the  aristocratic  precedents  of 
Europe.  The  gospel  of  work  still  gave  a  popular  sanction  to  long 
hours  of  labor.  Holidays  were  few  and  far  between.  Nineteenth- 
century  puritan  ism  continued  to  disapprove  the  theatre,  dancing, 
card-playing,  and  many  other  amusements.  But  the  common 
man's  need  for  recreation  was  asserting  itself. 


would  be  complete  without  some  record  of  the  rough-and- 
ready  life  in  that  new  West  -which  was  growing  up  during  the 
troubled  years  that  saw  the  rest  of  the  country  convulsed  by 
civil  -war  and  then  largely  absorbed  in  the  problems  of  Recon- 
struction. Its  vivid  story  has  often  been  told  in  -western  dime 
novel,  melodrama,  and  moving  picture.  They  have  portrayed  in 
lurid  colors  the  roaring,  -wide-open  days  -when  drunken  cowboys 
rode  their  horses  into  the  saloons  and  shot  out  the  lights,  suave 
professional  gamblers  dealt  out  poker  hands  with  guns  on  the 
table,  and  pistol-shots  punctuated  the  dance  music  as  flannel- 
shirted  miners  sported  at  hurdy-gurdy  or  honky-tonk. 

It  is  true  that  the  whisky-mill,  the  gambling-palace,  and  the 
dance-hall  dominated  recreation.  There  was  little  to  amuse  the 
solitary  miner  prospecting  among  the  ravines  and  gulches  of 
the  Sierras,  the  cowboy  riding  the  range  or  driving  cattle  north 
from  the  Texas  plains.  Their  pleasures  were  almost  entirely  cen- 
tered on  their  occasional  visits  to  civilization.  For  six  months  or 
longer  they  worked  hard,  lived  in  the  open,  and  never  saw  a 
woman.  "When  they  hit  the  bright  lights  of  some  little  town  that 
looked  like  gay  Paree  to  them,  they  just  went  crazy.** x  With 
silver  dollars  jingling  in  their  pockets,  crying  to  be  spent,  they 
needed  only  a  haircut  and  shave,  a  new  outfit  of  clothing,  and  a 
few  drinks  to  be  ready  to  go. 

Whoopee!  drink  that  rotgut,  drink  that  red  nose. 
Whenever  you  get  to  town; 
I>rink  it  straight  and  swig  it  mighty, 
Till  the  -world  goes  round  and  round.2 


Cowboy  or  prospector,  they  were  all  alike.  "It  is  he  that  bucks 
at  Monte;  plays  draw-poker;  fights  the  tiger;  patronizes  the 
Hurdies;  sings  like  a  Washoe  canary/"  Dan  De  Quille  wrote 
of  the  western  miner;  "it  is  he  who  first  sees  the  peep  of  dawn- 
through  the  bottom  of  a  tumbler—  through  the  same  cocks  his  eye 
on  the  last  smile  of  evening."  3 

LIFE  in  the  gold-fields  of  California  during  the  feverish  days 
that  followed  Forty-Nine  has  been  graphically  portrayed  (dis- 
counting their  sentimentality)  in  The  Luck  of  Roaring  Camp" 
and  The  Outcasts  of  Poker  Flat."  A  few  years  later  similar 
scenes  were  being  enacted  in  the  camps  that  sprang  up  in 
Nevada,  Montana,  Idaho,  and  Colorado.4  At  the  same  time  the 
larger  mining-towns  which  grew  up  around  the  more  important 
gold  and  silver  deposits  offered  entertainment  even  more  typical 
of  this  violent  era. 

The  most  fantastically  extravagant  of  them  all  during  the 
entire  period  from  1860  through  1880  was  Virginia  City,  Nevada. 
The  Comstock  Lode  yielded  in  these  two  decades  treasure  esti- 
mated at  $300,000,000,  and  some  twenty-five  thousand  people, 
almost  entirely  men,  worked  and  played  on  that  barren  moun- 
tainside with  an  intensity  hardly  paralleled  in  any  other  com- 
munity of  the  West.5  The  narrow  streets  were  always  crowded 
with  quartz  wagons  taking  the  mines*  daily  output  to  the  reduc- 
ing mills,  and  freight  teams  laden  with  supplies  which  had  been 
brought  over  the  long  mountain  road  from  California.  Stage- 
coaches were  setting  off  or  arriving  almost  hourly  in  front  of 
the  hotels;  riders  of  the  Pony  Express  dashed  madly  through 
the  tangled  traffic;  and  sometimes  a  string  of  camels  might  be 
seen  laboriously  packing  salt  up  the  steep  trails. 

Mark  Twain  was  in  Virginia  City  during  the  height  of  its  boom 
as  a  reporter  on  the  Territorial  Enterprise.  He  found  it  "the 
livest  town,  for  its  age  and  population,  that  America  had  ever 
produced."  He  was  fascinated  by  its  carefree,  gambling  spirit, 


by  all  its  color  and  movement  "There  were  military  companies," 
he  wrote,  "fire  companies,  brass  bands,  hotels,  theatres,  Tiurdy- 
gurdy  houses/  wide-open  gambling  palaces,  political  pow-wows, 
civic  processions,  street  fights,  murders,  inquests,  riots,  a  whisky 
mill  every  fifteen  steps . . .  and  some  talk  of  building  a  church!" 6 

The  miners  who  thronged  every  thoroughfare  had  only  one 
objective  when  their  long,  back-breaking  shift  was  over— enter- 
tainment Over  a  hundred  saloons  were  ready  to  aid  them.  The 
more  pretentious  "two-bit*  houses  (every  kind  of  drink  cost  a 
quarter)  were  the  most  sumptuous  establishments  in  town— long 
mahogany  bars,  glistening  chandeliers,  a  bright  fagade  of  mir- 
rors, showy  pictures  in  heavy  gilded  frames.  No  expense  was 
spared  to  enable  the  miners  to  drink  and  gamble  in  as  garish 
an  atmosphere  as  the  easy  money  of  Virginia  City  could  provide. 

Faro,  roulette,  monte,  and  poker  had  their  devotees*  Another 
game  was  keno.  TFIine  glame,"  was  the  Chinaman's  reputed  com- 
ment "Velly  slimple.  Dlealer  slay  TOeno,'  and  ellybolly  ellse 
slay  *O  Hlefl!' " 7  After  one  house  had  experimented  by  having 
on  hand  "a  real  living,  pretty,  modest-looking  young  girl,  in  a 
close-fitting  black  silk  dress,"  the  custom  spread  of  having  female 
croupiers  and  dealers,  through  whom  thousands  of  dollars 
changed  hands  nightly  without  causing  comment.8  Gambling 
was  so  much  a  part  of  the  life  of  the  mining-town  that  everything 
about  it  was  taken  for  granted. 

The  hurdy-gurdy  houses  were  a  favorite  resort.  In  a  com- 
munity where  women  were  so  scarce,  their  popularity  may  well 
be  imagined.  An  eastern  visitor  reports  that  they  were  not  all 
given  over  entirely  to  the  usual  personnel  of  such  establishments. 
Such  respectable  women  as  the  town  might  boast  frequented 
some  of  the  dance-halls,  and  they  were  invariably  treated  with 
deep  respect.  But  more  generally  standards  were  not  maintained 
on  such  a  high  level.  "Four  girls,  about  fifty  men,  an  Irish  fiddler, 
a  bar-keeper  and  a  bar,  constituted  the  outfit,"  reads  the  descrip- 
tion of  one  cheap  house.  "The  gents  were  charged  fifty  cents 
each  for  a  dance  with  the  fair  damsels,  and  after  the  dance  were 


required  to  pay  a  like  sum  at  the  bar  for  drinks  for  themselves 
and  their  partners. . . .  Gambling,  prostitution,  dancing  and  drink- 
ing were  sometimes  combined." g  As  in  the  case  of  saloons,  the 
more  expensive  hurdy-gurdies  had  the  most  luxurious  fittings. 
The  dance-floors  were  highly  polished,  the  music  was  provided 
by  a  full  orchestra  of  skilled  musicians,  and  the  assorted  collection 
of  available  ladies  rivaled  that  of  any  eastern  dance-halL 

Amusement  of  another  kind  was  provided  in  Virginia  City  by 
prize-fights.  The  keen  interest  they  aroused  among  the  miners, 
supplemented  by  the  betting  and  drinking,  sometimes  led  to 
critical  situations.  But  though  a  disputed  decision  often  found 
the  patrons  hauling  out  their  guns,  the  Territorial  Enterprise 
(was  it  Mark  Twain's  phrase?)  could  usually  report  that  the 
referee  "failed  to  be  killed." 10 

"A  rush  was  made  into  the  ring  to  break  up  the  fight  in  a 
general  row  so  that  the  bets  might  be  declared  off,"  an  alarmed 
easterner  wrote  of  one  disputed  prize-fight,  "and  instantly  fifty 
pistols  clicked  and  were  drawn. . . .  Colonel  Beidler  at  once 
sprang  into  the  ring,  drew  his  revolvers,  and  declared  that  he 
would  kill  the  first  man  who  attempted  to  interfere  with  the 
fight.  All  well  understood  that  when  Beidler's  pistol  was  drawn 
it  meant  business;  and  the  ring  was  almost  instantly  cleared, 
leaving  him  standing  alone  in  the  center.  TJoys/  said  he,  'this 
must  be  a  fair  fight  Go  on  with  the  show!*  and  time  was  promptly 
called  again."  X1 

There  were  occasionally  other  sports.  Many  of  the  miners 
were  Cornishmen  (it  was  a  mixed  population  of  all  nationali- 
ties), and  their  canvas-jacketed  wrestling  matches  were  a  pop- 
ular spectacle.  Sunday  horse-races  were  held  on  the  one  level 
spot  on  the  mountainside;  rifle-  and  pistol-shooting  contests 
sometimes  took  place;  and  members  of  the  Virginia  Alkali  and 
Sagebrush  Sporting  Club  chased  coyotes  with  greyhounds  on 
Forty-Mile  Desert  But  sooner  or  later  every  one  came  back  to 
gamble  at  the  Eldorado,  dance  at  the  Melodeon,  and  drink  at  the 
Sazerac,  the  Delta,  or  the  Howling  Wilderness.12 


"The  Comstock  is  an  improving  place  to  live  on,"  declared 
the  Gold  Hitt  News  of  December  7,  1876.  "Both  Gold  Hill  and 
Virginia  are  well  supplied  with  schools,  and  there  is  no  lack  o£ 
churches.  We  have  more  saloons  than  any  pkce  in  the  country. 
Every  Sunday  when  there  is  a  show  in  town  we  have  a  matinee 
and  an  evening  performance.  On  the  Sabbath,  also,  we  are 
entertained  with  a  horse-race  or  a  fight  between  a  bulldog  and 
a  wildcat.  Every  month  or  so  the  prize-fighters  favor  us  with  a 
mill,  which  we  all  go  to  see  and  then  indict  the  fighters,  as  a 
sort  of  concession  to  the  Puritanical  element.  .  ,  .  Every  Saturday 
night  small  boys  parade  up  and  down  the  principal  street  of 
Virginia,  carrying  transparencies  which  inform  our  sport-loving 
people  where  cockflghring  may  be  enjoyed.  Faro,  keno,  chuck-a- 
luck  and  roulette  may  be  found  in  every  second  saloon,  and  a 
special  policeman,  wearing  his  star,  frequently  conducts  the 
game.  Taking  everything  into  consideration,  there  are  few  pleas- 
anter  places  to  live  than  on  the  Comstock."  13 

THEATRICAL  entertainment  had  had  an  unusual  popularity  in 
the  mining-camps,  indeed  throughout  the  West,  since  the  Cali- 
fornia gold-rush.  It  brought  the  miners  glimpses  of  a  world 
from  which  they  were  otherwise  completely  cut  oft  Nowhere  did 
strolling  players,  minstrel  bands,  variety  shows,  and  straight 
dramatic  companies  win  a  more  enthusiastic  reception.  In  no 
other  part  of  the  country  had  the  theatre  come  "into  such  un- 
chastened,  free  and  abundant  life."  "  The  miners  showered  gold- 
dust  with  equal  abandon  upon  the  quavering  soprano  who 
touched  their  sentimental  hearts  with  her  rendering  of  "When 
the  Swallows  Homeward  Fly,"  and  upon  Edwin  Booth  (he  was 
listed  in  the  San  Francisco  directory  of  the  1850's  as  "comedian 
and  ranchero*15)  in  his  early  performances  of  Hamlet.  They 
cheered  themselves  hoarse  when  the  beautiful  heroine  was 
finally  rescued  in  a  Broadway  melodrama,  and  brushed  away  the 
tears  as  they  watched  a  juvenile  troupe  of  Fairy  Minstrels. 


San  Francisco  had  its  first  real  theatre  when  the  Jenny  Lind 
was  opened  in  1850,  some  two  thousand  miners  packing  pit  and 
gallery  for  a  performance  of  Macbeth.  Many  stars  of  the  eastern 
stage  trod  its  boards:  Junius  Brutus  Booth  as  well  as  the  young 
Edwin  Booth,  Laura  Keene,  Catherine  Sinclair  (the  divorced 
wife  of  Edwin  Forrest),  Lola  Montez,  the  glamorous  Countess 

of  Landsf eldt  who  had  been  mistress  of  the  King  of  Bavaria 

A  favorite  of  the  western  stage  was  California's  own  star,  Lotta 
Crabtree.  She  first  played  as  a  child  actress  in  mining-camp 
bar-rooms,  wandering  through  the  mountains  with  her  mother 
in  a  wagon  drawn  by  tasseled  mules.  "La  Petite  Lotta,"  singing 
"Young  Ladies,  Won't  You  Marry?"  and  dancing  her  famed 
Spider  Dance,  early  won  her  way  into  the  miners*  hearts.16 

In  Virginia  City's  flush  days  there  were  five  legitimate  theatres 
and  six  variety  houses  running  at  the  same  time.  At  Maguire's, 
and  later  at  Piper's  Opera  House,  the  plays  were  representative 
of  everything  being  staged  in  the  East  Here  were  seen  Shake- 
spearean revivals  and  other  serious  dramas;  Irish  farces,  Italian 
light  operas,  and  sentimental  comedies;  Victoria  Loftus*  British 
Blondes;  Haverly's  Mastodon  Minstrels;  Tom  shows  with  double 
quartettes  of  educated  hounds;  and  French  dancers  in  the  wicked 
can-can.  Also  lectures— Horace  Greeley  talking  on  the  state  of 
the  nation,  Artemus  Ward  on  "Babes  in  the  Wood." 1T 

The  sensational  Adah  Isaacs  Menken  won  a  triumph  in  1863 
which  is  reserved  for  few  actresses.  The  miners  went  mad  over 
her  beauty,  her  incomparable  voice,  her  daring.  When  she  ap- 
peared in  Mazeppa,  or  The  Wild  Horse,  an  excited  audience 
cheered  and  applauded  to  the  echo.  The  climax  of  this  stirring 
melodrama  is  reached  when  the  heroine  is  strapped  to  the  side 
of  the  wild  horse  to  be  driven  off  into  the  mountains.  The 
Menken,  wearing  only  a  slight  gauze  chiton,  played  the  part 
with  an  abandon  which  had  the  miners  standing  on  their  chairs. 
When  the  horse  dashed  up  the  rocky  mountain  trail  with  her 
beautiful,  almost  naked  body  lashed  to  its  flank,  pandemonium 
broke  loose. 


Virginia  City  had  never  been  so  thrilled  It  christened  a  new 
mining  district  The  Menken  and  organized  a  Menken  Shaft  and 
Tunnel  Company,  When  their  dazzling  heroine  finally  left,  she 
was  laden  down  with  the  bars  of  bullion,  silver  ingots,  certificates 
of  mining  stock,  with  which  the  admiring  miners  had  expressed 
their  homage.18 

IN  THE  cow  COUXTRY  of  the  1870's  and  1880's  the  men  who  rode 
the  range  often  got  to  town  only  once  or  twice  a  year.  Their 
periodic  binges  were  far  less  frequent  than  those  of  the  miners 
who  worked  and  lived  at  Virginia  City,  or  those  of  the  gold 
prospectors  in  the  Sierras.  They  had  a  great  deal  of  time  on 
their  hands.  But  as  one  of  them  phrased  it,  they  were  "merely 
folks,  just  plain,  every-day,  bow-legged  humans,"  1S  and  they 
sought  every  possible  means  of  whiling  away  the  tedium  of  long 
days  in  the  saddle  and  empty  evenings  at  camp  or  ranch-house. 

The  pride  they  developed  in  their  horses  made  them  eager  to 
meet  any  challenge  as  to  their  speed,  and  the  impromptu  horse- 
race was  as  popular  a  sport  on  the  range  as  in  any  other  phase 
of  frontier  life.  The  cowboy  was  ready  to  bet  anything  he  owned 
(except  perhaps  his  saddle)  on  such  races.  He  seldom  had 
money,  but  he  would  put  up  his  bridle,  his  rope,  his  quirt, 
sometimes  the  horse  itself.  Rival  outfits  would  stake  everything 
tibey  could  collectively  raise  on  a  match  between  two  favorite 
horses.  When  a  cowboy  met  a  friendly  Indian,  there  was  invari- 
ably a  race,  sometimes  leaving  one  or  the  other  to  go  his  way  on 

The  range-rider  always  had  his  six-shooter  with  him,  and  he 
amused  himself  by  taking  pot-shots  at  the  jack-rabbits,  prairie- 
dogs,  or  occasional  coyotes  that  crossed  his  trail.  Sometimes  he 
gave  chase  to  game  with  a  swinging  lariat  Cowboys  would  at- 
tempt to  rope  anything  that  came  their  way.  They  tried  their 
skill  on  buffalo  calves,  went  after  antelopes,  and  sometimes  even 
roped  bears.  There  is  the  tale  of  one  cowpuncher  who  made  the 

The  Hurdy-Gurdy  House  at  Virginia  City,  Montana 
Albert  D.  Richardson,  Beyond  the  Mississippi,  1867. 

Cow-Town  Vaudeville 
Cheyenne,  Wyoming.  Frank  Leslie's  Illustrated  Newspaper,  1877. 

Sucking  the   Tiger 

Faro     in     a     Cheyenne 

gambling    saloon.    Frank 

^Leslies  Illustrated  Xezr.s- 

papcr,  1S7T. 

Cowboys  in  Town  for  Christmas 
Drawing  by  Frederic  Remington.  Harper's  Weekly,  1889. 


experiment  of  throwing  his  rope  over  the  smokestack  of  a  loco- 
motive—and was  almost  jerked  to  eternity.  When  wolves  were 
discovered  attacking  the  cattle,  a  hunt  would  be  organized  with 
the  pack  of  greyhounds  that  many  ranches  kept  on  hand  for 
just  such  occasions.  All  hands  would  turn  out  for  what  was 
exciting  sport,  as  well  as  a  necessary  measure  for  protection  of 
the  stock.20 

The  cowboy  played  no  competitive  games.  He  never  wrestled 
or  boxed.  They  appeared  futile  sports  when  any  physical  en- 
counter was  generally  settled  by  the  sharp  crack  of  a  revolver. 
But  foot-races  were  sometimes  held.  Although  the  object  of  the 
race  was  to  reach  a  certain  spot  in  the  shortest  possible  time, 
this  did  not  mean  following  a  straight  line  when  run  on  the 
western  prairie.  To  offset  the  handicap  of  the  bow-leggedness 
which  revealed  the  real  horseman,  the  course  would  be  plotted 
over  the  most  difficult  terrain.  Cunning  in  avoiding  the  hazards 
of  sage-brush  and  gopher-holes,  rather  than  mere  speed,  was 
the  real  test 

The  cowboy  sang  a  great  deal  to  mitigate  his  loneliness  while 
riding  the  range  or  to  soothe  and  quiet  the  cattle  on  the  drive. 
In  his  collection  of  cowboy  songs,  John  A.  Lomax  has  told  of 
their  part  in  the  social  life  of  the  ranch.  Whenever  a  puncher 
from  another  outfit  drifted  into  camp,  he  was  expected  to  sing 
any  new  song  he  knew  or  additional  stanzas  for  an  old  one.21 
Plaintive  love  songs,  sentimental  ditties,  and  sorrowful  dirges 
grew  into  a  balladry  of  the  plains  which  has  taken  its  place  as 
one  of  the  most  distinctive  forms  of  American  folk-song.  With 
incredible  pathos  the  cowboy  sang  "The  Home  I  Ne'er  Will  Live 
to  See,"  "Oh,  Bury  Me  Not  on  the  Lone  Prai-rie/7  and  Tm  a 
Poor,  Lonesome  Cowboy." 

Sometimes  the  tune  was  livelier: 

Whoopee  ti  yi  yo,  git  along,  little  dogies; 

It's  your  misfortune  and  none  of  my  own. 
Whoopee  ti  yi  yo,  git  along,  little  dogies; 

For  you  know  Wyoming  will  be  your  new  home. 


At  night  about  the  camp-fire  there  was  always  some  one  in 
the  outfit  with  a  banjo,  mouth-organ,  or  jew's-harp.  They  would 
sing  The  Old  Chisholm  Trail,"  *Ten  Thousand  God-Damn  Cat- 
tle," The  Gal  I  Left  Behind  Me ,"  or  "The  Little  Black  Bull": 

The  little  black  bull  came  down  from  the  mount-tain 

(Hoorah  Johnny  and  a  hoo-rah  Johnny) 
The  little  black  bull  came  down  from  the  mount-tain 

Long  time  ago,  a  long  time  ago,  a  long  time  ago 
And  he  run  his  hom  in  a  white  oak  sap-ling 

Long  time  ago. . ,  .22 

Apart  from  singing,  evenings  afforded  little  entertainment 
Night  after  night,  for  weeks  and  months  on  end,  the  same  little 
group  of  men  sat  about  trying  to  kill  time.  They  knew  each  other 
far  too  well— every  idea,  every  trick  of  language,  every  irritating 
peculiarity— to  get  much  pleasure  from  their  own  company.  Men 
without  women  became  touchy  and  quarrelsome.  Long  hard 
hours  in  the  saddle,  a  monotonous  diet  of  miserably  cooked 
canned  goods,  made  for  frayed  nerves  and  a  readiness  to  take 
offense  which  often  left  the  atmosphere  electric. 

The  scene  was  seldom  the  gay,  roistering  one  of  fiction. 
Drinking  was  very  rare,  for  the  simple  reason  that  the  cowboys 
had  no  liquor.  When  some  one  did  bring  whisky  into  camp,  it 
would  not  last  long.  Nor  was  there  much  gambling.  The  ranch 
bands  generally  spent  all  their  money  on  their  periodic  trips  to 
town  and  had  nothing  with  which  to  bet  Dreary  and  apparently 
endless  games  of  poker  or  seven-up  nevertheless  went  on,  with 
packs  of  cards  so  greasy  from  use  that  only  those  who  knew 
them  personally  could  guess  what  they  were.  More  exciting  were 
the  occasional  fights  in  which  tarantulas  were  matched  against 
each  other  much  as  favorite  cocks  had  been  on  the  earlier  frontier. 
A  champion  spider  was  a  much-prized  possession,  carefully 

How  far  monotony  ruled  the  ranch-house  is  illustrated  by  the 
popularity  of  those  contests  in  which  the  cowboys  recited  the 


manufacturers*  labels  on  their  tins  of  canned  goods.  They  read 
very  little  (a  few  magazines,  seldom  books)  but  would  care- 
fully memorize  the  advertisements  for  condensed  milk  or  baked 
beans.  The  eastern  tenderfoot  was  sometimes  amazed  to  hear  the 
ranch-house  suddenly  break  into  a  rapid  singsong  recital  whose 
mysterious  significance  it  often  took  him  some  time  to  discover. 

A  visitor  could  always  be  sure  of  a  warm  welcome  among  men 
so  starved  for  society.  The  cowboys  would  dig  up  whatever  cash 
or  mobile  possessions  they  could  find  in  a  happy  attempt  to  take 
in  the  newcomer  at  whatever  game  he  chose.  Should  punchers 
ride  in  from  some  rival  outfit,  the  visit  would  be  celebrated  as 
freely  as  all  available  resources  in  the  matter  of  liquor  would 
permit.  When  an  innocent  easterner  happened  upon  that  restless 
company,  he  was  greeted  with  a  cordiality  which  lost  nothing 
from  the  fact  that  the  cowboys  were  hoping  to  have  as  much  fun 
as  possible  at  his  expense.  They  hazed  not  because  of  any  in- 
herent cruelty  in  their  nature,  but  because  they  were  bored.23 

The  wild  excitement  of  a  day  in  town  can  be  understood  only 
against  this  background  and  in  comparison  with  the  almost  un- 
relieved monotony  of  ranch-house  leisure.  It  was  little  wonder 
that  when  the  end  of  the  round-up  or  drive  gave  the  outfit  a 
holiday,  everything  but  the  desire  to  have  a  good  time  was 
completely  forgotten.  The  cowboy  was  out  to  enjoy  himself,  to 
make  up  for  those  long  weeks  whose  amusements  were  so  rare 
and  unsatisfying.  What  if  all  his  pay  did  disappear  in  a  single 
night?  He  might  not  get  to  town  for  another  six  months.  To 
gamble  and  drink  away  his  money  the  one  time  he  had  the 
chance  to  spend  it  freely  was  unquestioned  logic. 

The  cow-town  was  created  by  the  extension  of  the  railroad 
across  the  western  plains,  becoming  a  central  point  for  the 
shipment  of  cattle  to  eastern  markets.  It  was  often  no  more  than 
a  string  of  frame  houses  which  had  little  excuse  for  existence 
except  as  an  entertainment  center  for  all  those  varied  elements 
which  went  into  the  floating  population  of  the  plains-cowboys, 
ranchers,  freighters,  teamsters,  hunters,  storekeepers,  government 


officials,  half-breeds,  gamblers,  and  professional  bad  men.  Every 
one  went  armed.  Brawls  and  shooting  affrays  were  common. 
"The  town  was  simply  an  eddy  in  the  troubled  stream  of  West- 
ern immigration,"  wrote  Emerson  Hough,  "and  it  caught  the 
odd  bits  of  driftwood  and  wreck— the  flotsam  and  jetsam  of  a 
chaotic  flood."  -4 

To  cowpunchers  and  ranchmen  who  had  seen  nothing  but  the 
prairie  and  the  members  of  their  own  outfit  for  seemingly  end- 
less months,  it  was  nevertheless  full  of  high  promise.  They  rode 
in  booted  and  spurred,  sometimes  without  fanfare  but  often  with 
the  wild  yipping  of  the  western  thriller,  and  headed  straight  for 
the  nearest  saloon.  "Buying  the  town"  was  in  order  if  the  outfit 
was  really  in  money.  A  stack  of  silver  dollars  was  planked  down 
on  the  bar— "Gents,  it's  on  us.  She's  opened  up.  The  town  is 
yours."  Until  it  was  gone,  drinks  were  free  for  anybody  whatso- 
ever. There  were  instances  of  as  much  as  $1,000  being  spent  on 
opening  up  a  town,  the  saloon-keepers  prorating  the  money  until 
It  had  all  been  consumed  in  hard  liquor.25 

Many  stories  are  told.  One  cowman  walked  into  a  restaurant 
and  with  a  lordly  gesture  ordered  a  hundred  dollars*  worth  of 
ham  and  eggs.  Another  had  a  champagne  bath  in  the  town's 
rickety  little  hotel.  It  drained  the  entire  supply  of  every  saloon,  at 
five  dollars  a  bottle,  but  the  rancher's  theory  was  a  simple  one. 
He  wanted  a  bath,  nothing  was  too  good  for  him,  and  cham- 
pagne was  the  most  costly  liquid  of  which  he  knew.26 

Gambling  drew  the  cowboy  as  surely  as  it  did  the  miner.  Any 
game,  any  time,  but  poker  was  the  great  sport  of  the  cow  coun- 
try. Professional  gamblers  were  always  on  hand,  but  there  was 
not  much  cheating.  The  bad  man  caught  with  an  ace  up  his 
sleeve  got  short  shrift,  as  western  thrillers  have  shown  an 
admiring  world,  in  a  society  where  trigger  fingers  were  so  well 
exercised.  "The  click  of  a  six-shooter  is  music  to  my  ears,  and  a 
bowie-knife  is  my  looking  glass,"  was  a  favorite  boast  of  the 
frontier.  There  came  a  time  when  the  punchers  were  required  to 
check  their  guns  when  they  came  into  town,  and  the  sheriff 


promptly  took  the  bad  man  into  custody,  but  in  the  early  days 
little  differences  of  opinion  were  decided  in  favor  of  whoever 
was  quickest  on  the  draw. 

If  the  possible  favors  of  the  fancy  ladies  were  largely  re- 
sponsible for  the  popularity  of  the  dance-hall,  the  cowboy  often 
made  a  straight  course  for  it  just  for  sociability  and  a  good  time. 
"Three  of  us  was  in  the  parlor  of  Maggie  Burn's  house  giving  a 
song  number  called  "The  Texas  Ranger/  "  Teddy  Blue  wrote  in 
We  Pointed  Them  North,  "John  Bowen  was  playing  the  piano 
and  he  couldn't  play  the  piano,  and  Johnny  Stringfellow  was 
there  sawing  on  a  fiddle  and  he  couldn't  play  the  fiddle,  and  I 
was  singing,  and  between  the  three  of  us  we  was  raising  the 
roof.  And  Maggie— the  redheaded,  fighting  son  of  a  gun— got 
hopping  mad  and  says:  Tf  you  leather-legged  sons  of  bitches 
want  to  give  a  concert,  why  don't  you  hire  a  hall?  You're  mining 
my  piano.'"27  It  is  also  Teddy  Blue  who  tells  of  Connie  the 
Cowboy  Queen  and  her  $250  dress;  "They  said  there  wasn't  an 
outfit  from  the  Yellowstone  down  to  the  Platte,  and  over  in  the 
Dakotas  too,  that  couldn't  find  its  brand  on  that  dress." 2S 

For  the  few  respectable  women  who  found  their  way  to  the 
Far  West  the  cowboy  had  an  idolatrous  respect  Their  rarity  set 
them  so  far  apart  that  one  old-timer  declared  fervently  that 
there  were  only  two  things  a  cowpuncher  was  afraid  of,  a  decent 
woman  and  being  set  afoot29  When  an  occasional  ball  was  held, 
young  and  old,  beautiful  and  plain,  were  treated  with  awed 
chivalry.  Such  functions  were  popular,  and  the  cowboys  gathered 
in  full  war-paint—silk  handkerchief  and  fancy  vest,  chaps  and 
spurs— from  a  neighborhood  of  two  hundred  miles.  Owen  Wister 
has  described  such  a  dance  in  his  story  of  how  the  Virginian 
mixed  up  the  sleeping  babies  which  had  been  parked  for  the 
evening  in  the  woodshed.  If  there  were  not  enough  women  to 
go  around,  which  was  usually  the  case,  some  of  the  cowboys 
would  let  themselves  be  "heifer-branded**  with  a  handkerchief 
tied  about  the  arm.30 

At  the  end  of  the  trail  along  which  the  cattle  were  driven 


north  from  Texas  was  Dodge  City— the  Beautiful,  Bibulous  Baby- 
lon of  tibe  Frontier.  There  were  other  cow-towns— Abilene,  New- 
town,  Ogalalla,  Julesburg,  Cheyenne— where  it  took  several 
generations  of  orderly  living  to  blot  out  the  unsavory  reputa- 
tion of  the  early  days,  but  Dodge  City  was  reputedly  the  most 
wicked  of  them  alL  "Her  incorporated  limits,"  a  local  historian 
wrote,  "are  the  rendezvous  of  all  the  unemployed  scaUawagism 
in  seven  states*** 31  There  might  be  seventy-five  thousand  head  of 
cattle  grazing  in  the  surrounding  meadows  as  they  waited  ship- 
ment east,  and  the  Texas  buckaroos  who  had  driven  them  north 
packed  the  saloons  and  dance-halls  which  alternated  with  every 
business  house  on  the  town's  crowded  streets: 

It  was  hot  July  when  we  got  to  Dodge, 
That  wickedest  little  town; 
And  we  started  in  to  have  some  fun 
Just  as  the  sun  went  down. 

We  killed  a  few  of  the  worst  bad  men 
For  the  pleasure  of  seeing  them  kick; 
We  rode  right  into  a  billiard  hall, 
And  I  guessed  we  raised  Old  Nick. 
The  bartender  left  in  a  wonderful  haste 
On  that  hot  and  sultry  day; 
He  never  came  back  to  get  his  hat 
Until  we  were  miles  away. 

We  went  from  Dodge  to  the  town  Caldwell, 

As  we  wished  to  prolong  the  fun; 

When  the  marshal  there  caught  sight  of  us, 

You  ought  to  have  seen  him  run. 

We  rode  right  into  a  big  dance  hall 

That  opened  upon  the  street; 

The  music  and  dancing  both  were  fine. 

And  the  girlies  sure  looked  sweet 

We  drank  all  the  Caldwell  whisky, 
We  ate  everything  in  sight; 
We  took  in  all  the  dances, 
And  they  say  we  had  a  fight82 


THE  LIBERTY  and  license  of  cow-towns  and  mining-camps  did  not 
last  for  very  long.  Once  the  civilization  of  the  East  Had  caught 
up  'with  it,  the  colorful  excitement  of  the  Far  West  quickly 
faded.  More  orderly  government  led  to  the  regulation  of  its 
wide-open  entertainment  palaces,  and  the  refining  influence  of 
women  toned  down  the  freedom  of  a  man's  world.  But  the 
West's  exuberant  spirit  of  fun,  its  refusal  to  allow  itself  to  be 
cramped  by  traditional  tabus,  the  spirit  typified  by  the  com- 
ment that  while  the  church  might  be  tolerated,  the  saloon  and 
the  dance-hall  were  regarded  as  necessities,  had  its  influence  on 
the  attitude  of  the  country  as  a  whole  toward  work  and  play. 
It  served  to  undermine  still  further  the  Puritan  tradition  and 
gave  a  new  impetus  to  the  expansion  of  recreation. 



VV  gambling,  drinking,  and  gun-play,  a  series  of  athletic 
crazes  were  sweeping  through  the  states  of  the  East.  Baseball 
developed  from  its  humble  beginnings  in  the  days  before  the 
Civil  War  to  its  recognized  status  as  America's  national  game. 
The  rapid  spread  of  croquet  caused  the  startled  editors  of  The 
Nation  to  describe  it  as  the  swiftest  and  most  infectious  epidemic 
the  country  had  ever  experienced.1  Lawn  tennis  was  introduced 
to  polite  society  by  enthusiasts  who  had  seen  it  played  in  Eng- 
land, and  the  old  sport  of  archery  was  revived  as  still  another 
fashionable  lawn  game.  Roller-skating  attained  a  popularity 
which  extended  to  all  parts  of  the  country.  What  the  sewing- 
machine  is  to  our  industrial  wants  and  the  telegraph  to  our 
commercial  pursuits,  one  devotee  wrote  rapturously,  this  new 
system  of  exercise  had  become  to  society's  physical  and  social 

Track  and  field  events  were  also  promoted  with  the  wide- 
spread organization  of  amateur  athletic  clubs;  gymnastic  games 
were  sponsored  both  by  the  German  Turnverein  and  the 
Y.M.C.A.;  and  in  the  colleges  a  spectacular  sports  phenomenon 
loomed  over  the  horizon  with  the  development  of  intercollegiate 
football.  Society  welcomed  polo  as  an  importation  from  abroad, 
took  up  the  English  sport  of  coaching.  And  finally  a  craze  for 
bicycling  arose  to  supersede  all  other  outdoor  activities  as  city 
streets  and  country  roads  became  crowded  with  nattily  dressed 
cyclists  out  on  their  club  runs. 

All  this  took  place  in  the'late  1860s  and  the  1870 s.  Previously 



the  country  had  had  virtually  no  organized  sports  as  we  know 
them  to-day.  Neither  men  nor  women  played  outdoor  games. 
Alarmed  observers  in  mid-century  had  found  the  national  health 
deteriorating  because  of  a  general  lack  of  exercise  more  wide- 
spread than  among  the  people  of  any  other  nation.  Ralph  Waldo 
Emerson  had  written  despairingly  of  "the  invalid  habits  of  this 
country," 8  and  from  abroad  the  London  Times  had  issued  grave 
warnings  of  possibly  dire  consequences  for  our  national  well- 
being.4  No  transformation  in  the  recreational  scene  has  been 
more  startling  than  this  sudden  burgeoning  of  an  interest  in 
sports  which  almost  overnight  introduced  millions  of  Americans 
to  a  phase  of  life  shortly  destined  to  become  a  major  preoccu- 
pation among  all  classes. 

It  was  a  phenomenon  somewhat  difficult  to  explain,  but  the 
first  faint  stirrings  of  popular  interest  may  be  traced  to  the 
decade  before  the  Civil  War.  The  decline  of  the  informal  sports 
associated  with  country  festivals  and  frontier  frolics,  a  conse- 
quence of  the  breaking-up  of  old  forms  of  village  association  as 
the  nation  became  more  urbanized  and  of  changes  in  farm 
economy  which  brought  about  the  disappearance  of  such  work- 
play  occasions  as  the  barn-raising  and  the  husking-bee,  had 
drawn  attention  to  a  parlous  state  of  affairs.  Many  observers  sud- 
denly realized  that  the  spectator  sports  of  the  period  were  a  sorry 
substitute  for  what  was  being  lost.  This  was  not  so  important  for 
the  rural  population,  but  it  affected  the  townsman  very  seriously. 
"Who  in  this  community  really  takes  exercise?"  Thomas  Went- 
worth  Higginson  asked  in  the  first  issue  of  the  Atlantic  Monthly, 
in  1858.  TEven  the  mechanic  confines  himself  to  one  set  of  mus- 
cles; the  blacksmith  acquires  strength  in  his  right  arm,  and  the 
dancing  teacher  in  his  left  leg.  But  the  professional  or  business 
man,  what  muscles  has  he  at  all?" 5 

A  campaign  was  started  to  break  down  the  prejudice  against 
sports  as  an  idle  diversion  and  to  encourage  more  active  partici- 
pation in  outdoor  games.  "The  Americans  as  a  people— at  least 
the  professional  and  mercantile  classes,"  Edward  Everett  de- 


clared,  "have  too  little  considered  the  importance  of  healthful, 

generous  recreation Noble,  athletic  sports,  manly  outdoor 

exercises . . .  which  strengthen  the  mind  by  strengthening  the 
body,  and  bring  man  into  a  generous  and  exhilarating  com- 
munion with  nature . . .  are  too  little  cultivated  in  town  or  coun- 
try."6 With  far  greater  emphasis  but  on  very  much  the  same 
grounds  the  editor  of  Harper's  Monthly  Magazine  and  Dr.  Oliver 
Wendell  Holmes  lent  the  weight  of  iheir  authority  to  the  new 
cause.  The  former  held  the  want  of  sports  responsible  for  turning 
young  America  into  "a  pale,  pasty-faced,  narrow  chested,  spin- 
dled-shanked,  dwarfed  race— a  mere  walking  mannikin  to  adver- 
tise the  latest  cut  of  the  fashionable  tailor.*77  The  Autocrat  of 
the  Breakfast-Table  declared  himself  satisfied  "that  such  a  set 
of  black-coated,  stiff-jointed,  soft-muscled,  paste-complexioned 
youth  as  we  can  boast  in  our  Atlantic  cities  never  before  sprang 
from  the  loins  of  Anglo-Saxon  lineage." 8 

These  diatribes  bore  some  fruit  in  the  1850's.  Skating  was  taken 
up  so  widely  that  the  vogue  for  it  became  known  as  Higginson's 
Revival.  Rowing  grew  so  popular  (Charles  W.  Eliot  was  on  the 
Harvard  crew)  that  the  New  York  Herald  declared  that  if  the 
boating  era  should  continue  another  five  years,  "the  coming 
generation  will  relieve  America  from  the  odium  of  physical  de- 
cline." e  Nevertheless  the  flowering  of  sports  awaited  the  post-war 
period,  when  they  were  given  a  primary  impetus  through  being 
adopted  by  the  world  of  fashion.  The  early  rowing  clubs  had 
been  composed  of  "young  men  of  the  highest  respectability,7* 
but  as  the  new  games  of  the  1870's  were  introduced  from  Eng- 
land, for  the  rise  of  sports  in  the  United  States  owed  a  very 
considerable  debt  to  the  sports  revival  in  the  mother  country, 
it  was  more  than  ever  society's  leaders  who  first  played  them.10 
The  attempt  was  even  made  to  monopolize  them.  Again  and 
again  the  complacent  statement  may  be  found  in  contemporary 
articles  in  the  better  magazines  that  such  and  such  a  sport— 
whether  tennis,  polo,  or  bicycling— does  not  "offer  any  attractions 
to  the  more  vulgar  elements  of  society/*11  But  the  real  signifi- 


cance  of  fashionable  approval  of  sports  lay  in  the  fact  that  it 
awoke  the  interest  of  democracy.  The  common  man  eagerly  fol- 
lowed where  the  aristocrat  led.  He  could  not  be  kept  from  any 
diversion  within  his  means.  "We  may  turn  up  our  noses  gen- 
erally at  those  who  in  this  country  profess  to  lead  fashions," 
Caspar  Whitney,  an  early  sports  writer,  declared  some  years 
later,  **but  in  the  matter  of  showing  the  way  to  healthy,  vigorous 
outdoor  play  they  have  set  a  fine  example  and  one  that  has  taken 
a  firm  hold  upon  the  people."  12 

A  basic  need  for  outdoor  exercise  to  conserve  national  health 
and  the  sponsorship  of  social  leaders  thus  served  in  large  measure 
to  break  down  the  barriers  that  had  formerly  stood  in  the  way 
of  the  development  of  organized  sports.  Games  which  could  ap- 
peal to  every  one  had  at  last  been  invented  or  developed.  And 
a  post-war  atmosphere,  in  which  the  instinct  for  pleasure  is 
naturally  intensified,  provided  fertile  ground  for  the  growth  of 
these  new  forms  of  recreation.  It  is  perhaps  not  so  surprising 
after  all  that  within  a  short  quarter-century  of  the  day  when 
one  English  visitor  declared  that  "to  roll  balls  in  a  ten  pin  alley 
by  gas-light  or  to  drive  a  fast  trotting  horse  in  a  light  wagon 
along  a  very  bad  and  dusty  road,  seems  the  Alpha  and  Omega 
of  sport  in  the  United  States,7*  1S  almost  every  one  of  our  mod- 
ern games  was  being  played  by  a  rapidly  growing  army  of 
enthusiasts  . 

THE  PIONEER  of  them  all,  baseball,  had  evolved  from  the  various 
bat-and-ball  games  that  the  early  settlers  had  brought  with  them 
from  England.  A  children's  game  actually  known  as  base-ball 
had  been  played  in  the  eighteenth  century.  It  is  noted  in  A 
Pretty  Little  Pocket  Boofc,  Intended  for  the  Amusement  of  Little 
Master  Tommy  and  Pretty  Miss  PoEy,  which  was  first  published 
in  England  in  1744  and  soon  after  reprinted  in  this  country. 
Jane  Austen  refers  to  it  in  Northanger  Abbey?*  Four-old-cat, 
rounders,  and  town-ball,  each  of  which  contributed  something 


to  baseball,  were  also  being  played  in  the  early  nineteenth  cen- 
tury by  young  men  and  boys  throughout  the  country.  Samuel 
Woodruff,  writing  on  amusements  in  1833,  speaks  of  New  Eng- 
landers  as  being  experts  in  such  games  of  ball  as  "cricket,  base, 
cat,  football,  trap-ball." 1S 

But  there  was  no  formality  about  these  early  games-no  regu- 
lar teams,  no  accepted  rules  of  play,  no  scheduled  contests. 
Cricket  was  the  only  one  at  all  organized.  New  arrivals  from 
England  almost  invariably  formed  cricket  teams.  It  was  an 
occasional  diversion  in  all  parts  of  the  country,  played  north 
and  south  and  on  the  western  prairies.  It  was  most  general  in 
and  about  Philadelphia,  where  groups  of  English  factory-workers 
pkyed  weekly  games.16  But  cricket  never  really  took  hold  in 
America.  Its  leisurely  pace  could  not  be  reconciled  with  a  fron- 
tier-nourished love  for  speed,  excitement,  action.  It  was  steadily 
driven  to  the  wall  as  the  far  more  lively  game  of  baseball,  slowly 
taking  its  modern  form  and  shape,  made  a  more  universal  bid 
for  popularity. 

The  date  of  baseball's  emergence  as  a  game  definitely  differ- 
ent from  rounders  or  town-ball  has  been  patriotically  determined 
by  a  national  commission  which  set  out  in  1907  to  establish  its 
American  origins.  But  there  is  no  recorded  evidence  to  justify 
its  conclusion  that  modern  baseball  stems  from  Abner  Double- 
day's  supposed  adoption  of  the  diamond  at  Cooperstown,  New 
York,  in  1839.17  Although  town-ball  as  it  was  generally  played 
at  that  time  had  four  bases  at  the  corners  of  a  square  and  there 
were  no  foul  balls  (one  hit  the  ball  in  any  direction  and  ran), 
the  diamond  and  other  attributes  of  the  modern  game  had 
already  been  adopted  in  both  rounders  and  children's  base-ball. 
The  beginnings  of  the  organized  sport  may  perhaps  be  more 
accurately  traced  to  a  group  of  New  York  business  and  profes- 
sional men  who  about  1842  began  playing  it  at  the  Elysian  Fields 
in  Hoboken.  They  formally  organized  the  Knickerbocker  Club 
and  tinder  the  lead  of  Alexander  J.  Cartwright  adopted  a  code 
of  rules  which  was  printed  in  1845.  There  were  to  be  nine  players 

A  Great  Gam  for  tk  TlaM  Championship 

Return  match  between  the  Athletic  Base  Ball  Club  of  Philadelphia  and 

the  Atlantics  of  Brooklyn,  Philadelphia,  October  22,  1866,  won  by  the 

Athletics,  31  to  12,  Lithograph  drawn  and  published  by  J,  L,  Magee, 

Courtesy  of  Hany  T.  Peters. 

''•'"'''  'ato^J^^H?^*.1  '    .'''I'     "''ft    I*'"'*-''        V-*'    '"-""':  'V      "",* 
-  " 

T/ie  Game  o/  Croquet 
Drawing  by  C.  G.  Bush.  Harper's  \Veekly,  1866. 

A  Spring  Meeting  of  the  New  York  Archery  Club 
Drawing  by  T.  de  Thulstrup.  Frank  Leslies  Illustrated  Newspaper,  1880. 


on  each  side,  three  men  out  constituted  an  inning,  and  the  game 
was  won  by  the  first  team  to  make  twenty-one  runs,  or  "aces" 
as  they  were  then  called.18  The  first  match  game  on  record  was 
played  a  year  later  with  a  picked  team  which  called  itself  the 
New  York  Baseball  Club,  tibe  "all-stars*'  winning  23  to  4  in  four 

In  keeping  with  their  social  status,  the  members  of  the  Knick- 
erbocker Club  played  in  neat  uniforms  of  blue  trousers,  white 
shirts,  and  straw  hats.  As  important  as  the  game  was  the  formal 
dinner  which  followed  it.  For  some  time,  indeed,  every  effort  was 
made  to  keep  baseball  an  exclusive  sport,  and  not  until  the 
1850*s  were  more  democratic  clubs  organized  and  the  Knicker- 
bockers compelled  to  recognize  that  workers  as  well  as  gentle- 
men could  play  the  game.  For  there  was  no  need  in  baseball  to 
undergo  the  expense  of  maintaining  a  boat  club  or  keeping  up 
a  stable  of  riding-horses.  It  wanted  only  an  open  field,  a  bat, 
and  a  ball.  ""The  great  mass,  who  are  in  a  subordinate  capacity," 
a  contemporary  pointed  out  succinctly,  "can  participate  in  this 
health  giving  and  noble  pastime.'* 19 

One  of  the  first  clubs  that  brought  a  more  democratic  spirit 
into  the  baseball  world  was  the  Eckford  Club  of  Brooklyn, 
formed  in  1855.  By  this  year  the  Knickerbockers  had  many 
rivals  in  and  about  New  York.  Games  were  being  placed  regu- 
larly among  such  teams  as  the  Gothams,  the  Putnams,  the  Har- 
lems,  the  Excelsiors,  and  the  Eagles.  But  the  Eckford  Club  had 
this  distinction:  its  members  were  shipwrights  and  mechanics. 
They  suffered  the  disadvantage  in  comparison  with  other  clubs 
of  not  having  very  much  time  to  practise,  but  they  soon  proved 
their  worth  by  defeating  the  Excelsior  Club,  made  up  of  mer- 
chants and  clerks.20  The  Newark  Mechanics  Club  was  among 
other  organizations  composed  of  workingmen,  while  one  of  the 
best  teams  playing  on  the  Boston  Common,  where  games  were 
often  scheduled  at  five  in  the  morning  so  as  not  to  interfere 
with  the  players*  work,  was  made  up  of  truckmen.21  And  then 
in  1856  a  young  man  named  Hemy  Wright,  employed  in  a  jew- 


elry  manufactory  and  also  a  professional  bowler  with  the  St 
George  Cricket  Club,  joined  the  Knickerbockers.  Social  barriers 
were  breaking  down  completely.  The  ball  clubs  wanted  to  win 
their  games.  Here  also  was  a  hint  of  the  professionalism  toward 
which  they  were  headed.  Another  decade  and  Wright  will  have 
gone  to  Cincinnati  to  organize  the  Red  Stockings  as  the  country's 
first  admittedly  professional  team.22 

Baseball  slowly  spread  north,  south,  east,  and  west.  It  drove 
out  town-ball  in  New  England  and  cricket  in  Philadelphia,  made 
its  way  to  the  Mississippi  Valley  (Chicago  had  four  clubs  in 
1858),  crossed  the  trans-Mississippi  frontier,  reached  out  to  the 
Pacific  Coast.  Everywhere  it  was  bringing  men  and  boys  into 
active  outdoor  play.  It  was  also  becoming  highly  organized.  The 
National  Association  of  Base  Ball  Players  was  formed  in  1858, 
with  twenty-five  clubs  applying  for  charter  membership,  and  two 
years  later  delegates  from  fifty  organizations  attended  its  annual 
meeting.  New  York  and  New  Jersey  led  in  the  number  of  clubs 
(New  England  had  a  separate  association  for  teams  still  playing 
town-ball),  but  Philadelphia,  Washington,  Detroit,  Chicago,  and 
New  Orleans  were  but  a  few  among  the  cities  where  baseball 
was  now  established.23 

The  game  was  attracting  spectators  as  well  as  players,  and  a 
wider  public  interest  was  growing  out  of  the  reports  carried  in 
the  newspaper  of  the  interclub  matches.  It  still  had  features 
strange  to  modern  times.  A  man  was  out  on  a  ball  caught  on 
the  first  bounce;  pitching  was  an  underhand  throw.  Even  though 
there  were  players  who  "sent  the  ball  with  exceeding  velocity," 
the  scales  were  more  heavily  weighted  in  favor  of  the  batter 
than  they  are  to-day.  No  gloves  were  worn.  We  find  The  Spirit 
of  the  Times  praising  Mr.  Wadsworth  of  the  Knickerbockers  for 
his  fearlessness  "in  the  dangerous  position  of  catcher."  Contem- 
porary prints  portray  the  umpire  sitting  out  in  the  field  some- 
where near  first  base  under  an  umbrella,  in  frock-coat  and 
stove-pipe  hat.24 

But  baseball  was  exciting.  In  1858  some  two  thousand  persons 


actually  paid  fifty  cents  admission  for  a  match  at  the  Fashion 
Race  Course,  the  first  recorded  game  with  gate  receipts.25  Two 
years  later  the  champion  Excelsiors,  of  Brooklyn,  went  on  tour 
and  defeated  challenging  clubs  in  cities  throughout  New  York, 
Pennsylvania,  Delaware,  and  Maryland.  Returning  for  a  match 
with  another  Brooklyn  team,  the  Atlantics,  they  played  a  game 
which  drew  fifteen  thousand  spectators.28  Baseball  was  on  its 

The  Civil  War  interrupted  this  forward  march,  but  it  brought 
an  even  larger  popular  following.  The  game  was  everywhere 
played  behind  the  lines  and  in  base  camps,  almost  on  the  battle- 
field. Country  boys  and  factory-workers  were  introduced  to  the 
new  sport,  and  with  the  end  of  the  war  they  took  it  back  to  their 
home  communities.  One  result  of  wartime  playing  is  seen  in  the 
attendance  of  dubs  at  the  first  post-war  meetings  of  the  Na- 
tional Association.  The  total  jumped  to  ninety-one  in  1865.  A 
year  later  the  membership,  representing  seventeen  states  and  the 
District  of  Columbia,  totaled  202.  "Since  the  war,  it  has  run  like 
wildfire,**  the  Galaxy  declared  editorially.  Charles  A.  Peverelly 
believed  it  to  be  beyond  question  "the  leading  feature  in  the 
outdoor  sports  of  the  United  States."  And  by  1872  the  magazine 
Sports  and  Games  categorically  stated  that  it  had  become  "the 
national  game  of  the  United  States."  ** 

The  American  genius  for  organization  was  outdoing  itself  in 
the  growth  of  the  National  Association,  however,  and  the  keen 
rivalry  among  member  clubs  was  promoting  professionalism.  The 
practice  developed  of  engaging  expert  players  for  a  local  club 
through  offering  them  better-paid  jobs  in  the  community  than 
they  could  normally  expect  to  obtain.  On  occasion  players  were 
directly  paid  for  their  services  in  important  games.  A  confusing 
quasi-professionalism  invaded  the  ranks  of  what  had  formerly 
been  a  wholly  amateur  sport.  The  next  step  was  inevitable.  In 
1869  the  Cincinnati  Red  Stockings  were  definitely  hired  as  a 
professional  team  for  a  country-wide  tour.  They  did  not  lose 
a  game  that  summer,  and  the  practical  advantage  of  salaried 


players  was  recognized  by  all  those  sports  followers  primarily 
interested  in  championship  teams. 

These  moves  toward  professional  baseball  were  both  cause  and 
consequence  of  the  heavy  betting  that  began  to  be  made  on 
interclub  games.  For  the  gambling  fraternity  quickly  became 
interested  in  the  new  sport.  It  was  taken  up  as  professional  foot- 
races  and  prize-fighting  had  been.  Charges  also  began  to  be 
made  that  the  gamblers  were  not  only  beginning  to  control  the 
ball  players,  but  were  operating  pools  and  arranging  for  games 
to  be  won  or  lost  on  a  strictly  business  basis.28  Amateur  members 
of  the  National  Association  bitterly  contested  the  increasing  in- 
fluence of  these  new  elements  in  the  game,  but  their  organiza- 
tion was  losing  its  control  In  1871  its  place  was  taken  by  a  new 
association  frankly  composed  of  professional  players. 

For  a  time  this  association  did  not  function  very  effectively.  It 
was  either  unwilling  or  unable  to  suppress  gambling,  and  base- 
ball fell  under  a  cloud  of  popular  disapproval.  Efforts  at  reform 
were  finally  crowned  when  five  years  later  William  A.  Hulbert 
undertook  the  organization  of  the  National  League  of  Profes- 
sional Baseball  Clubs.  Rules  and  regulations  were  now  adopted 
which  set  up  strict  standards  for  inter-dub  competition.29  With 
an  original  membership  made  up  of  teams  from  New  York, 
Philadelphia,  Hartford,  Boston,  Chicago,  Louisville,  Cincinnati, 
and  St  Louis,  baseball  had  a  controlling  body.  Through  its 
ministrations  there  grew  up  the  immensely  complicated  system 
of  franchises,  major  and  minor  leagues,  player  contracts,  and 
other  business  controls  that  now  characterize  the  professional 
game.  The  National  League  gave  baseball  a  new  stability,  re- 
stored public  confidence  in  the  contests  among  league  teams, 
and  put  the  sport  really  on  its  feet 

Amateur  playing  had  naturally  suffered  from  the  conflict  with 
professionalism  and  the  disrepute  into  which  the  game  had  been 
brought  by  gambling.  But  it  quickly  responded  to  these  new  de- 
velopments. Completely  divorced  from  the  professional  game  so 
far  as  organisation  was  concerned  but  following  its  lead  on  all 


playing  rules,  it  flourished  as  it  never  had  before.  Baseball  be- 
came the  favorite  game  in  the  colleges.  It  was  played  by  every 
high  school  and  was  encouraged  by  Y.M.CA/s.  Ball  clubs  be- 
came a  feature  of  every  American  community. 

The  game  had  many  qualities  that  appealed  to  the  average 
young  American.  It  met  his  newly  felt  need  for  healthful  out- 
door exercise.  It  offered  him  competitive  team  play.  But  per- 
haps Mark  Twain  had  an  even  more  suggestive  explanation  of 
its  popularity.  "Baseball  is  the  veiy  symbol,"  he  wrote,  "the  out- 
ward and  visible  expression  of  the  drive  and  push  and  rush  and 
struggle  of  the  raging,  tearing,  booming  nineteenth  century."  80 

CROQUET  had  in  the  meantime  performed  the  miracle  of  getting 
both  men  and  women  out-of-doors  for  an  activity  they  could  enjoy 
together.  The  first  of  the  post-war  games  to  be  introduced  from 
England,  it  reached  an  even  broader  public  than  baseball  Cro- 
quet was  more  than  a  game;  it  was  a  social  function.  Contempo- 
rary writers  were  soon  pointing  out  what  an  unmixed  blessing 
it  was  for  the  American  damsel,  and  warning  bachelors  to  be- 

"'Charming'  is  the  universal  exclamation  of  all  who  play  or 
who  watch  the  playing  of  Croquet...,"  an  early  rules  book 
stated.  "Hitherto,  while  men  and  boys  have  had  their  healthy 
means  of  recreation  in  the  open  air,  the  women  and  girls  have 
been  restricted  to  the  less  exhilarating  sports  of  indoor  life.  .  .  . 
Grace  in  holding  and  using  the  mallet,  easy  and  pleasing  atti- 
tudes in  playing,  promptness  in  taking  your  turn,  and  gentle- 
manly and  ladylike  manners  generally  throughout  the  game,  are 
points  which  it  is  unnecessary  for  us  to  enlarge  on.  .  .  .  Young 
ladies  are  proverbially  fond  of  cheating  at  this  game;  but  they 
only  do  so  because  they  think  that  men  like  it**  83 

George  Makepeace  Towle  has  an  idyllic  picture  of  people 
playing  croquet:  "The  sunshine  glimmering  through  the  branches 
—the  soft  velvety  grass—the  cool,  pure  country  air—  the  quiet 


broken  only  by  the  twittering  of  the  birds,  and  now  and  then  a 
passing  footstep."33  Only  occasionally  did  some  controversial 
issue  arise  to  mar  the  sweet  felicity  of  the  croquet  court.  There 
was  the  problem  of  "spooning."  This  was  not  a  mode  of  behavior, 
but  the  practice  of  hitting  the  croquet-ball  by  what  is  now  called 
the  pendulum  stroke.  Obviously  women  in  hooped-skirts  were 
at  a  disadvantage.  The  Nation  gave  its  considered  opinion:  'We 
agree  that  spooning  is  perfectly  fair  in  a  match  of  gentlemen, 
but  it  is  decidedly  ungenerous  when  played  with  ladies,  unless 
those  ladies  are  bloomers."  34 

Croquet  was  by  no  means  confined  to  the  fashionable  lawns 
of  the  effete  East,  however.  It  went  west  with  the  homesteaders. 
Many  accounts  tell  of  its  popularity  in  the  small  towns  of  the 
prairie  states.  So  great  was  the  vogue  in  the  1870's  that  manu- 
facturers put  out  playing  sets  with  candle-sockets  on  the  wickets 
for  night  playing. 

Archery  and  lawn  tennis,  the  former  the  revival  of  an  old  sport 
and  the  latter  newly  introduced  from  England  about  1874,  had 
also  been  taken  up  widely  by  this  time.  They  too  were  sports, 
gentle  and  genteel,  which  could  be  played  by  both  sexes.  "The 
contestants  were  ladies  and  gentlemen  from  the  cultured  circles 
of  society,9*  Harper's  WeeJdy  reported  of  an  archery  tournament  in 
the  White  Stocking  Park  at  Chicago  in  1879,  "and  while  the 
rivalry  among  the  shooters  was  keen  to  the  last  degree,  an  air  of 
such  refinement  and  courteous  dignity  as  is  not  often  witnessed 
by  observers  of  public  games  characterized  every  one  connected 
with  the  contest/*85  Writing  on  tennis  in  1881,  the  magazine 
Outing,  whose  establishment  reflected  the  rising  interest  in  sports, 
assured  its  feminine  readers  that  this  was  far  too  refined  a  game 
to  offer  any  attractions  for  the  lower  orders  of  society.  A  lady  who 
took  part  in  a  tennis  match  would  find  herself  "in  the  company  of 
persons  in  whose  society  she  is  accustomed  to  move."  36 

At  this  stage  of  its  development,  lawn  tennis  as  played  in  the 
United  States  did  not  involve  hard,  overhand  serves,  back-court 
drives,  or  smashes  at  the  net  Women  players  suffered  only  the 


slightest  handicap  in  having  to  hold  up  the  trains  of  their  long, 
dragging  skirts;  they  were  not  expected  actually  to  run  for  the 
ball.  It  was  patted  gently  back  and  forth  over  a  high  net 
stretched  across  any  level  space  of  lawn.  Competition  gradually 
led  to  changed  methods  of  play,  and  with  the  organization  of 
the  United  States  National  Lawn  Tennis  Association  (there  were 
forty  member  clubs  in  1883)  and  the  institution  of  annual  tourna- 
ments at  Newport,  men  began  to  take  the  game  more  seriously. 
The  active  features  of  play  that  now  characterize  it  were  devel- 
oped. A  group  of  players  whose  names  are  still  remembered 
emerged  from  the  ranks—  R.  D,  Sears,  James  Dwight,  Robert  D. 
Wrenn,  William  A.  Larned,  Dwight  F.  Davis  ----  Finally  in  1900 
the  establishment  of  the  International  Davis  Cup  matches  defi- 
nitely marked  the  transformation  of  tennis  from  a  pastime  to  a 

ROLLER-SKATING  had  been  introduced  by  James  L.  Plimpton  in 
1863,  and  New  York's  social  leaders,  hoping  it  could  be  restricted 
to  "the  educated  and  refined  classes/*  quickly  made  it  fashionable. 
Their  Roller  Skating  Association  leased  the  Atlantic  House  in 
Newport  and  made  over  its  dining-hall  and  piazza  into  a  skating- 
rink.  It  held  weekly  assemblies  where  such  distinguished  guests 
as  General  Sherman  and  Chief  Justice  Bigelow  -watched  "taste- 
fully dressed  young  men  and  girls,  sailing,  swimming,  floating 
through  the  mazes  of  the  march,  as  if  impelled  by  magic 
power."  8S 

But  Newport  soon  had  to  surrender  to  the  democracy.  Rinks 
were  built  in  every  town  and  immense  ones  established  in  the 
cities,  with  a  general  admission  of  fifty  or  twenty-five  cents, 
which  welcomed  all  comers.  In  Chicago  the  Casino  accommo- 
dated four  thousand  persons—  three  thousand  spectators  and 
one  thousand  skaters.  There  were  not  only  dancing  and  racing. 
Professor  A.  E.  Smith  introduced  special  fancy  skating—  the  Rich- 
mond Roll,  the  Picket  Fence,  the  Philadelphia  Twist  ("rolling 


his  limbs  far  apart  and  laying  his  head  sideways  on  one  of 
them"),  and  the  Dude  on  Wheels.  Night  after  night  the  band 
played,  the  new  Siemens  lights  shone  down  on  the  hard-maple 
floor,  and  a  vast  attendance  crowded  the  Casino's  spacious  and 
elegant  rink.39 

Going  further  west,  skating  was  even  more  popular.  The 
Olympian  Club  Roller  Skating  Rink  in  San  Francisco  advertised 
five  thousand  pairs  of  skates  and  69,000  square  feet  of  hard- 
maple  floor.  It  was  holding  races,  roller-skating  polo,  and  "tall 
hat  and  high  collar"  parties.40 

Young  and  old  skated—  men,  women,  and  children.  For  a  time 
no  other  sport  seemed  able  to  match  its  popularity.  A  writer  in 
Harper's  Weekly  cited  a  gravestone  inscription: 

Our  Jane  has  climbed  the  golden  stair 
And  passed  the  jasper  gates; 
Henceforth  she  will  have  wings  to  wear, 
Instead  of  roller  skates.*1 

BUT  rr  REMAINED  for  bicycling  to  become  the  most  spectacular 
craze  of  all.  While  it  had  had  a  brief  vogue  in  the  1860  s  (the  first 
velocipedes—  the  French  "dandy  horses"—  were  known  as  early  as 
the  opening  of  the  century  ),  it  was  the  introduction  about  1876  of 
the  high-wheeled  bicycles,  supplanting  the  old  wooden  bone- 
shakers, that  first  made  it  a  popular  sport.  Within  half  a  dozen 
years  of  the  first  manufacture  of  the  new  wheels,  there  were 
some  twenty  thousand  confirmed  cyclists  in  the  country;  in 
1886  the  total  had  swelled  to  some  fifty  thousand,  and  a  year 
later  it  was  over  a  hundred  thousand.  Clubs  were  organized 
in  almost  every  town  and  city  throughout  the  land,  and  to  bring 
together  organizations  of  like  interest  and  promote  cycling  as  a 
sport,  they  banded  together,  in  1881,  to  form  the  League  of 
American  Wheelmen.*2 

There  has  been  heretofore  in  our  American  life,  crowded  to 
excess  as  it  has  been  with  the  harassing  cares  and  anxieties  of 


business,9*  a  writer  in  Harper's  Monthly  Magazine  stated  in  July, 
1881,  "so  little  attention  paid  to  the  organized  practice  of  health- 
giving  outdoor  exercise,  to  which  bicycling  is  peculiarly  adopted, 
that  the  organization  of  this  League  of  American  Wheelmen  can 
not  fail  to  be  recognized  as  an  important  subject  for  public  con- 
gratulation." 43 

The  safety  bicycle  and  the  drop  frame  for  women  were  still 
almost  a  decade  away.  This  was  the  first  enthusiasm  of  the 
high-wheeled  pioneers,  those  daring  riders  who  went  forth 
perched  on  a  postage-stamp  saddle  athwart  a  sixty-inch  wheel 
A  header  from  that  dizzy  eminence  meant  broken  bones,  if  not 
a  broken  head.  But  forth  the  wheelmen  rode— high-necked  jack- 
ets, close-fitting  knee-pants,  and  little  round  hats  (later,  venti- 
lated duck  helmets  and  imported  English  hose)— prepared  to  defy 
all  the  hazards  of  the  road.  They  generally  went  in  company. 
Club  runs  were  the  fashion.  The  cyclists  mounted  to  the  bugle 
call  of  "Boots  and  Saddles,"  and  sober  pedestrians  watched  in 
awe  as  they  wheeled  past  in  military  formation. 

It  was  also  the  era  of  impressive  bicycle  parades,  competitive 
club  drills,  hill-climbing  contests,  and  race  meetings.  On  July  4, 
1884,  news  of  the  bicycle  world  included  a  meet  on  the  Boston 
Common  drawing  thousands  of  spectators;  a  parade  of  seventy 
cyclists  at  Portsmouth,  New  Hampshire;  the  first  dub  run  of 
the  Kishwaukee  Bicycle  Club  at  Syracuse,  Illinois;  races  for  the 
Georgia  championship  at  Columbus;  and  medal  runs  at  Salt 
Lake  City.  Thomas  Stevens  was  off  on  his  famous  bicycle  trip 
around  the  world,  and  in  New  York  a  bicycle  school  with  thirty 
uniformed  instructors  was  teaching  Wall  Street  bankers  to  wheel 
to  band  music.44 

The  r61e  of  women  in  this  bright  dawn  of  the  bicycle  age  was 
limited  but  none  the  less  well  recognized.  The  high-wheeled 
machine  was  too  much  for  them,  but  they  were  given  the  tri- 
cycle. Here  was  recreation  on  *a  higher  plane  than  the  ball-field 
or  the  walking  rink,"  an  outdoor  activity  which  marked  "a  step 
towards  the  emancipation  of  woman  from  her  usually  too 


inactive  indoor  life." 4S  In  this  vigorous  propaganda  to  promote 
female  cycling,  The  Wheelman  also  called  upon  the  support  of 
ministers  and  physicians.  Bicycling  was  both  godly  and  healthy. 
One  word  of  warning,  from  A  Family  Physician:  TDo  not  think 
of  sitting  down  to  table  until  you  have  changed  your  under- 
clothing, and,  after  a  delightful  wash  and  rub-down,  quietly  and 
leisurely  dressed  again."  ** 

Tricycles  were  not  scorned  by  men.  They  were  sometimes 
as  fast  as  the  bicycle  (the  mile  record  was  2:33  minutes  for  the 
tricycle,  2:29  minutes  for  the  bicycle  in  1890 ),47  and  a  day's  run 
in  the  country  could  be  managed  with  a  good  deal  more  ease. 
Professor  Hoffman's  Tips  to  Tricyclists  was  written  for  both  the 
sexes.  It  was  an  all-inclusive  guide,  with  advice  on  the  wearing 
of  celluloid  collars  and  on  management  of  breath,  on  cleaning 
the  machine  and  on  the  desirability  of  lady  cyclists'  carrying 
menthol  cones  for  emergencies/8 

There  were  all  types  of  tricycles— the  Surprise  Tricycle,  the 
Quadrant  Tricycle,  the  Coventry  Rotary  Tricycle.  Another  ve- 
hicle was  the  Sociable.  It  was  in  effect  a  small  self -wheeled  car- 
riage, the  cyclists  happily  sitting  beside  each  other.  It  was  widely 
advertised  for  honeymoons.  Other  machines  completely  defy 
description— the  Coventry  Convertible  Four  in  Hand  and  the 
Rudge  Triplet  Quadricycle.49 

The  social  consequences  of  bicycling,  to  be  so  much  more 
apparent  in  the  next  decade,  were  already  becoming  evident  in 
the  1880s.  Although  the  price  of  machines  ($100  to  $125  for  an 
ordinary  and  $180  for  a  tricycle)  still  made  them  an  expensive 
luxury,  the  number  of  cyclists  was  increasing  year  by  year.  The 
rediscovery  of  the  outdoors  had  received  its  greatest  encourage- 
ment, and  the  League  of  American  Wheelmen  was  performing 
heroic  services  in  demanding  improved  roads.  "Bicycling  is  a 
fraternity  of  more  permanent  organization/*  Outing  declared  in 
1882,  *than  ever  characterized  any  sport  since  the  world  be- 

The  First  National  Tennis  Tournament  at  ^ew  Brighton 
Drawing  by  H.  A.  Ogden.  Frank  Leslie's  Illustrated  Newspaper,  1880. 

Washington  Meet  of  the  League  of  American  Wheelmen 
Frank  Leslie's  Illustrated  Newspaper,  1884. 

Meets  Princeton  in  Football 

Their  fifth  match,  at  St.  George's  Cricket  Club,  Hoboken,  Thanksgiving 

Day,  November  27,   1879,   a  scoreless  tie.   Drawing  by  A.   B.   Frost. 

Harpers  Weekly,  1879. 


THE  R6LE  of  the  colleges  in  the  rise  of  sports  was  not  one  of 
leadership.  It  was  not  their  example  that  first  set  people  playing 
games,  bicycling,  or  generally  getting  outdoors  for  recreation. 
The  epidemics  sweeping  the  country  did  not  pass  them  by,51  but 
undergraduates  neither  introduced  nor  popularized  any  one  of 
the  games  that  have  so  far  been  described.  The  only  sport  they 
developed  was  intercollegiate  footbalL 

It  descended  from  a  game  played  in  England  at  least  as  early 
as  the  days  of  Edward  II.  "For  as  much  as  there  is  great  noise 
in  the  city,**  reads  a  decree  of  1314,  "caused  by  hustling  over 
large  balls  from  which  many  evils  arise  which  God  forbid;  we 
forbid  such  game  to  be  used  in  the  city  in  the  future.** 52  And 
again  and  again  in  later  years  England's  sovereigns  fruitlessly 
legislated  against  a  sport  which  the  common  people  insisted  on 
playing.  The  early  colonists  brought  it  to  this  country,  and 
throughout  the  eighteenth  and  the  first  half  of  the  nineteenth 
centuries  it  was  popular  in  the  colleges.  The  game  generally 
played  in  this  period  was  something  like  association  football, 
or  soccer,  but  it  was  completely  unorganized,  and  any  number 
of  players  was  usually  allowed  on  each  side.  The  first  recorded 
intercollegiate  contests  (there  is  notice  of  an  earlier  game  be- 
tween two  groups  of  Boston  schoolboys),53  took  place  in  1869 
between  Princeton  and  Rutgers.  They  played  three  games  with 
twenty-five  men  on  each  team.54 

A  revival  of  football  at  Harvard  and  Yale  about  1872  (it  had 
been  prohibited  for  some  years  because  of  increasing  rough- 
ness) 55  was  the  first  real  step  in  its  emergence  as  an  organized 
sport  The  English  variant  known  as  Rugby,  rather  than  associa- 
tion football,  was  played,  and  at  a  conference  among  representa- 
tives of  Harvard,  Yale,  Princeton,  and  Columbia  a  set  of  rules 
derived  from  those  of  the  English  Rugby  Union  was  formally 
adopted.  If  the  game  was  still  far  removed  from  the  intercol- 
legiate football  we  know  to-day,  its  development  from  that  date, 
1876,  followed  a  steady  and  persistent  course. 

Among  the  early  changes  which  transformed  Rugby  into  our 


modern  game  were  the  reduction  of  the  number  of  players  from 
fifteen  to  eleven;  their  assignment  to  specific  positions  in  line 
and  backfield;  new  provisions  for  running  with  the  ball,  lacking, 
and  passing;  and  the  substitution  of  the  modern  "scrimmage" 
for  the  old  "scrummage"—  that  confused  huddle  of  the  original 
game  in  which,  instead  of  being  passed  back,  the  ball  was  indis- 
criminately kicked  out  after  being  put  in  play.  When  the  new 
Intercollegiate  Football  Association  gave  its  sanction  to  these 
new  rules  in  1SS1,  there  was  little  left  of  English  Rugby  in 
American  colleges.50 

Football  aroused  spectator  interest  from  the  start,  and  the 
Big  Three  of  the  eastern  colleges—  Harvard,  Yale  and  Princeton 
—at  first  completely  overshadowed  all  other  teams.  It  was  long 
before  comparable  elevens  were  in  the  field.  The  Thanksgiving 
Day  games  of  these  universities  were  consequently  the  great 
events  of  the  fall  season.  Some  four  thousand  spectators  turned 
out  for  the  first  Princeton-Yale  game  in  1878;  little  more  than  a 
decade  later,  attendance  was  almost  forty  thousand.57 

Few  adults  found  themselves  able  or  willing  to  play  football. 
Although  teams  made  up  of  former  college  players  were  for  a 
time  quite  active,  the  game  was  primarily  for  boys.  But  many 
were  glad  to  watch  so  exciting  a  sport.  Its  dependence  upon 
brute  force  satisfied  atavistic  instincts  as  could  no  other  modern 
spectacle  except  the  prize-fight  Baseball  had  become  the  na- 
tional game  because  so  many  people  played  it  as  well  as  watched 
it.  Football  was  destined  from  the  first  to  be  primarily  a  spec- 
tator sport. 

THIS  phenomenal  expansion  in  the  field  of  sports  was  the  most 
significant  development  in  the  nation's  recreational  life  that  had 
yet  taken  place.  Apart  from  all  the  considerations  already  men- 
tioned, athletics  provided  an  outlet  for  surplus  energy  and  sup- 
pressed emotions  which  the  American  people  greatly  needed. 
The  traditions  of  pioneer  life  had  influenced  them  along  very 


definite  lines,  and  the  restrictions  of  urban  living  warred  against 
a  feeling  for  the  outdoors  which  was  in  their  blood.  With  the 
gradual  passing  of  so  much  of  what  the  frontier  had  always  stood 
for,  sports  provided  a  new  outlet  for  an  inherently  restless 

In  subsequent  years  they  were  to  become  far  more  general. 
Outdoor  recreation  was  to  develop  into  a  much  more  marked 
feature  of  American  Life  as  new  opportunities  opened  up  for 
ever  larger  numbers  of  people  to  play  games.  The  democracy 
was  to  take  over  sport  to  an  extent  which  its  limited  leisure  and 
lack  of  resources  still  made  impossible  in  these  decades  after 
the  Civil  War.  But  the  path  had  been  cleared.  America  had 
discovered  a  new  -world. 



growth  of  commercial  amusements,  there  was  a  steadily 
broadening  interest  in  recreation  in  the  1880's  and  1890*5.  The 
doldrums  of  half  a  century  earlier  had  been  left  far  behind.  The 
gospel  of  work  still  held  good,  but  it  was  tempered  by  a  new 
realization  of  the  need  for  play.  The  decline  of  puritan  influence 
resulted  in  wider  popular  sanction  for  many  diversions  which 
had  once  been  generally  disapproved.  And  the  new  sports  them- 
selves, as  a  writer  in  Outing  declared,  had  made  a  breach  in  the 
walls  "which  that  awful  personage  Mrs.  Grundy  had  raised  up  to 
separate  the  sexes  in  outdoor  games."  *  The  era  of  Victorian  re- 
pression was  drawing  to  a  close. 

Newspapers  and  magazines  all  reflected  this.  During  the  sum- 
mer of  1886  the  New  fork  Tribune  devoted  no  less  than  five 
hundred  columns  to  sports,  also  issuing  its  Book  of  Open-Air 
Sports,  and  a  decade  later  William  Randolph  Hearst  started  a 
custom  which  the  entire  press  quickly  adopted.  He  began  pub- 
lishing daily  in  the  New  fork  Journal  a  page  headed  "In  the 
World  of  Professional  and  Amateur  Sports.** 2  Magazines  devoted 
to  these  new  activities  were  also  started.  Outing  had  shown  the 
way.  It  was  followed  by  a  wide  choice  of  weeklies  and  monthlies 
ranging  from  the  American  Canoeist  to  the  Bicycling  World,  from 
the  Ball  Players'  Chronicle  to  ArcJiery  and  Tennis  News. 

It  could  still  be  said  that  many  more  people  watched  sports 
than  took  part  in  them.  James  F.  Muirhead,  a  sympathetic  but 
critical  English  observer  of  the  new  movement,  reported  that 
games  were  widely  played  in  the  East  but  in  the  Middle  West 



"baseball  and  other  sports,  like  dancing  in  China,  are  almost 
wholly  in  the  hands  of  paid  performers." 3  Nevertheless,  hundreds 
of  thousands  were  being  recruited  annually  to  fill  the  ranks  of  a 
growing  army  of  sportsmen  and  sportswomen.  The  outdoor  move- 
ment was  gathering  increasing  momentum.  There  was  a  vogue 
for  walking  and  mountain-climbing,  fishing  and  hunting,  camp- 
ing in  the  woods.  A  craze  for  canoeing  is  attested  by  notices  of 
railroad  excursions  into  the  country  with  freight-cars  equipped 
with  special  canoe  racks  and  also  with  accommodations  for  fold- 
ing boats.  Steamship  lines  advertised  outings  for  amateur  photog- 
raphers—**Up  the  river  the  artists  sailed,  popping  away  with  their 
cameras."  * 

There  were  summer  resorts.  It  was  no  longer  only  Saratoga, 
Newport,  Long  Branch,  and  a  relatively  small  number  of  fashion- 
able watering-places  that  represented  this  phase  of  recreation. 
The  number  of  resorts,  especially  in  what  was  becoming  the 
vacationland  of  New  England  mountain  and  seashore,  was  legion. 
In  May,  1890,  the  New  York  Tribune  was  running  some  eight 
columns  of  summer-hotel  advertisements,  appealing  directly  to 
the  middle  class  rather  than  to  the  more  exclusive  ranks  of  so- 
ciety. The  popular  Summer  Tourist  and  Excursion  Guide,  listing 
moderate-priced  hotels  and  cheap  railroad  excursions,  repre- 
sented a  far  departure  from  The  Fashionable  Tour"  of  half  a 
century  earlier. 

The  attractions  the  resorts  offered  also  mirrored  the  changing 
scene.  One  hotel,  inordinately  proud  of  its  gas-lights  and  electric 
bells,  glowingly  advertised  extensive  grounds  for  lawn  tennis, 
croquet,  and  archery.  Another  singled  out  as  its  most  popular 
feature  its  facilities  for  fishing,  boating,  driving,  tennis,  and 
croquet6  Every  seashore  resort  stressed  the  bathing.  There  were 
no  longer  any  reservations  as  to  its  propriety.  The  prudent  female 
still  went  into  the  water  fully  clothed  Godey's  Lady's  Book 
advertised  a  costume  of  Turkey  red  "consisting  of  a  yoke  polo- 
naise and  full  drawers,"  to  be  worn  with  a  sash  around  the  waist, 
long  black  stockings,  and  a  straw  hat6  But  the  old  prejudices 

Camping  Out 

Lithograph  by  N,  Cumer  after  a  painting  by  Louis  Maurer,  1856,  Courtesy 
of  Hany  T,  Peters, 


against  men  and  women  going  into  the  surf  together  had  com- 
pletely disappeared. 

Visitors  from  abroad  in  the  1890's  were  as  much  struck  by  the 
way  Americans  were  now  seeking  out  opportunities  for  play  as 
those  who  had  come  to  this  country  in  the  1840's  had  been  im- 
pressed by  our  apparent  lack  of  interest  in  amusements.  The 
United  States  was  still  the  Land  of  the  Dollar.  We  were  a  nation 
absorbed  in  money-making.  But  there  was  a  new  appreciation  of 
the  r61e  of  recreation  "as  a  leaven  to  the  toilsome  year  of  the 
world."  7  Among  others,  James  Bryce,  as  keen  an  interpreter  of 
the  American  scene  as  any  European  who  has  ever  visited  the 
United  States,  found  a  remarkable  faculty  for  enjoyment  among 
Americans,  a  power  to  draw  happiness  from  simple  and  innocent 
pleasures  which  was  seldom  found  in  overburdened  Europe. 
The  sadness  of  Puritanism,"  he  wrote,  "seems  to  have  been  shed 
off."  8  Two  French  travelers  made  reports  which  contrasted  even 
more  sharply  with  those  of  their  mid-century  predecessors.  Paul 
de  Rousiers  was  specially  impressed  with  what  he  considered  the 
general  air  of  honesty  and  decency  about  our  recreation;  9  Paul 
Blouet  by  the  freedom  and  gaiety  with  which  American  men  and 
women  took  part  in  so  many  activities  together.  "They  have  not 
the  English  tendency,**  the  latter  told  his  countrymen,  "to  convert 
their  pleasures  into  funeral  services."  10 

THESE  GAINS  had  been  made  gradually.  Americans  generally  had 
not  suddenly  thrown  off  that  psychological  restraint  which  one 
writer  termed  "the  doom  of  work."11  Many  of  the  generation 
of  the  1890's  had  had  much  too  deeply  imprinted  on  their 
minds  the  moral  lessons  taught  by  the  little  homilies  they 
had  read  as  children  in  the  famous  McGuffey  readers.  In  one  of 
them,  "The  Idle  Boy  Reformed,"  a  little  lad  who  unaccountably 
disliked  work  asked  several  animal  friends  to  play  with  him.  The 
invariable  answer  was,  "No,  I  must  not  be  idle."  The  story  con- 
cludes: "What?  is  nobody  idle?  Then  little  boys  must  not  be 


idle/  So  he  made  haste  and  went  to  school  and  learned  his  lesson 
very  well,  and  the  master  said  he  was  a  good  boy/* 12 

Even  when  decreasing  hours  of  labor  (the  twelve-hour  day 
had  now  largely  given  way  to  the  ten-hour  day)  and  such  revo- 
lutionary changes  as  Saturday  half-holidays  and  two-week  sum- 
mer vacations  afforded  a  new  measure  of  justified  leisure,  there 
was  still  the  old  prejudice  against  any  frivolous  "mispense"  of  time. 
It  was  particularly  strong  in  rural  sections  and  primarily  directed 
against  commercial  entertainment.  The  pleasures  of  the  city  stood 
condemned,  as  partaking  of  the  Devil,  by  those  who  did  not  have 
the  opportunity  to  enjoy  them.  It  was  the  cry  of  the  Lollards 
against  the  pernicious  amusements  of  the  fourteenth  century;  of 
the  early  middle-class  Puritans  against  the  diversions  of  the 
English  aristocracy;  of  the  humble  followers  of  the  New  England 
way  against  the  fashionable  pleasures  of  the  rich  merchants;  of 
the  frontier  converts  to  Methodism  against  urban  dancing,  card- 
playing,  and  theatre-going. 

The  metropolis  stood  for  vice  and  wickedness.  Religious  jour- 
nals painted  its  traps  and  pitfalls  in  lurid  colors,  vividly  revealed 
its  pleasures  as  sinister  invitations  to  eviL  New  York  was  the  out- 
standing symbol  of  **all  the  abominations  which  curse  humanity,** 
but  readers  of  the  more  exciting  exposures  were  warned  that  "the 
giddy  voluptuaries  who  find  pleasure  in  guilty  abandon  and  cor- 
rupt morals  are  not  indigenous  to  New  York,  but  flourish  to  a 
lesser  degree  in  all  great  cities.**  In  Metropolitan  Life  Unveiled, 
or  Mysteries  and  Miseries  of  America's  Great  Cities,  the  author 
was  careful  to  point  out  that  he  was  not  prompted  by  ttpessi- 
mistical  reflections,*  but  unmasked  the  sins  of  the  cities  solely 
that  the  beauties  of  refinement  and  purity  might  appear  nobler 
by  contrast1*  Yet  naturally  enough  the  warnings  of  the  godly 
only  heightened  the  discontent  of  country  youths  with  a  life 
which  so  signally  lacked  these  dangers  and  excitements.  Bright 
lights  were  made  all  the  more  alluring. 

Vitriolic  attacks  which  would  have  had  the  admiring  approval 
of  Cotton  Mather  were  still  being  launched  against  the  theatre. 


As  a  leader  of  the  die-hards,  the  Reverend  Josiah  W.  Leeds  was 
profoundly  shocked  that  playhouses  should  be  looked  upon  with 
more  tolerance  than  during  the  early  days  of  the  Republic,  al- 
though they  were  probably  "as  low  in  character  and  proportion- 
ally as  great  in  number  as  they  were  in  Paris  when  that  city  was 
under  the  sway  of  the  God-denying,  blood-seeking,  and  depraved 
leaders  of  the  French  Revolution.*  He  would  tolerate  nothing 
that  had  to  do  with  the  theatre.  Tf  avowed  Christians  of  're- 
spectability* would  have  the  vile  variety  theatres  of  the  poorer 
classes  removed  from  our  cities,"  he  warned,  "such  persons  can- 
not consistently  give  countenance  to  the  playhouses  of  the  so- 
styled  *better  sort';  and  if  they  would  have  the  low  music-halls, 
with  their  tawdry  and  lewd  accessories  abolished,  they,  on  their 
part,  should  have  naught  to  do  with  the  elegant  opera,  its  al- 
luring ballet  and  unsavory  plot"  " 

But  while  the  heirs  of  the  Puritan  tradition  might  still  rail 
again  all  urban  entertainments,  clinging  tenaciously  to  out- 
moded ideals  of  conduct,  they  could  not  possibly  prevent  devel- 
opments which  were  an  inevitable  consequence  of  changing 
social  and  economic  conditions.  The  church  as  a  whole  adopted  a 
more  realistic  attitude.  It  listened  to  the  people,  realizing  it  had 
lost  the  power  to  impose  arbitrary  prohibitions.  When  it  dis- 
approved of  certain  types  of  commercial  amusements,  it  sought 
to  substitute  its  own  entertainments.  "The  church  must  not  at- 
tempt to  take  away  the  theatre,  the  dance,  the  card  party,"  stated 
William  D.  Hyde,  "unless  it  can  give  in  its  place  not  merely  a  re- 
ligious or  intellectual  substitute,  like  a  prayer  meeting  or  a 
literary  society,  but  a  genuine  social  equivalent"15  "If  amusing 
young  people  aids  to  save  them,"  the  Northwestern  Christian 
Advocate,  an  organ  of  the  Methodist  Episcopal  Church  unequiv- 
ocally stated  in  one  issue,  "then  the  work  is  fully  and  gloriously 
worthy  of  the  church." 1S 

Provision  was  made  in  the  new  institutional  or  socialized 
churches  of  the  1880's  and  1890*s  for  libraries,  gymnasiums,  and 
assemblies;  for  games,  concerts,  and  amusements.  One  of  them 


built  a  $400,000  People  s  Palace  to  meet  the  community's  needs 
for  "sanctified  amusement  and  recreation." 17  The  Y.M.GA.  had 
already  become  a  leader  in  the  promotion  of  sports  (it  had  some 
261  gymnasiums  in  cities  throughout  the  country18),  and  other 
religious  organizations  vied  with  the  churches  themselves  in 
providing  social  activities  of  all  kinds*  It  was  the  era  of  sociables, 
fairs,  suppers,  and  strawberry  festivals.  In  mild  and  innocent 
form,  these  affairs  could  reproduce  through  raffles,  grab-bags, 
charades,  games,  and  refreshments  the  sophisticated  pleasures  of 
more  worldly  society.1* 

But  again  it  would  be  misleading  to  imply  that  this  revolu- 
tionary change  in  the  attitude  of  the  church  was  accomplished 
without  strong  opposition  from  within  the  ranks.  Religion  was 
combating  the  rivalry  of  entertainment  over  its  hold  upon  the 
public,  but  not  all  churchmen  realized  what  was  happening.  "We 
are  not  informed,"  Dr.  William  Bayard  Hale  caustically  wrote 
in  The  Forum,  ". . .  that  the  Church  at  Ephesus  or  Philippi  ever 
advertised  a  bazaar,  a  clam-bake,  or  a  strawbeny  social.  We  have 
no  information  that  St.  Paul  was  accustomed  to  give  stereopticon 
lectures,  Barnabas  operating  the  lantern.  It  is  not  clearly  estab- 
lished that  St  Athanasius  ever  arranged  a  kirmess,  a  broom-drill, 
or  a  pink  tea."  -°  He  cited  flagrant  examples  of  churches  seeking 
at  one  and  the  same  time  to  raise  money  and  entertain  their 
members.  It  was  his  forthright  conclusion  that  "the  world  does 
not  need  the  church  as  a  purveyor  of  vaudeville." 

The  crusading  Mr.  Leeds  sprang  joyfully  into  the  fray.  He 
was  as  strongly  opposed  to  church  socials  as  to  the  lowest  music- 
hall  performances.  He  had  no  tolerance  whatsoever  for  the  idea 
that  the  church  should  in  any  way  recognize  the  popular  craving 
for  amusement— Tft  used  to  be  held  that  Jesus  and  His  work 
furaished  ample  resources  to  meet  the  loftiest  aspirations  of  a 
saved  souL"  He  condemned  with  equal  vigor  dramas,  comedies, 
farces,  suppers,  fairs,  and  entertainments  of  any  conceivable  sort 
A  strawbeny  festival  was  a  step  which  led  straight  to  the  variety 
show  or  public  dance-hall: 


And  fairs  and  shows  in  the  halls  were  held, 
And  the  world  and  her  children  were  there, 
And  laughter  and  music  and  feasts  prevailed 
In  the  Place  that  was  meant  for  prayer.21 

Observance  of  the  Lord's  Day  also  brought  about  another  clash 
with  conservative  religion.  Its  dedication  to  rest  and  meditation 
had  broken  down  somewhat  in  the  late  eighteenth  century,  and 
then,  as  we  have  seen,  been  vigorously  revived  early  in  the  nine- 
teenth. Now  the  doctrine  was  again  being  undermined.  The  great 
influx  of  foreign  immigrants,  bringing  with  them  wholly  different 
ideas  of  how  Sunday  should  be  spent,  had  a  great  influence  in  the 
cities.  The  Germans  particularly  followed  the  customs  of  the 
Continental  Sabbath,  so  completely  at  variance  with  those  of  the 
Puritan  Sabbath,  and  their  picnics  and  beer-garden  entertain- 
ments became  a  Sunday  feature  wherever  they  had  settled  in 
large  numbers.  Industrious,  sober,  hard-working,  they  set  an  ex- 
ample which  was  widely  followed.  The  popularity  of  Sunday 
excursions  and  the  practice  of  making  the  day  primarily  an  oc- 
casion for  recreation  spread  rapidly  after  mid-century  among 
working  people.22 

In  the  running  fight  against  this  trend,  rural  America  stub- 
bornly maintained  its  old-fashioned  ways.  South  Carolina  contin- 
ued to  make  church  attendance  compulsory  as  late  as  1885,  and 
the  rock-ribbed  state  of  Vermont  attempted  to  enforce  the  old- 
time  bans  on  its  statute-books  that  forbade  all  Sunday  diversions. 
Wherever  the  evangelical  religions  had  a  popular  following,  there 
the  Sabbath  was  rigidly  observed.  Even  in  the  cities  the  more 
conservative  ministers  preached  innumerable  sermons  against 
profaning  the  Lord's  Day,  promising  dire  punishment  for  who- 
ever dared  to  depart  from  the  straight  and  narrow  path.  Ex- 
cursions to  the  country,  picnics  and  ball  games,  Sunday  concerts, 
came  under  as  severe  a  ban  as  theatre-going,  dancing,  or  card- 
playing.  "You  cannot  serve  God  and  skylark  on  a  bicycle,"  one 
minister  told  his  abashed  congregation,  Such  militant  organiza- 
tions as  the  American  Sabbath  Union,  the  Sunday  League  of 


America,  the  Lord's  Day  Alliance,  were  startling  proof  of  the 
vitality  of  the  strong  forces  still  arrayed  in  support  of  this  phase 
of  Puritan  doctrine,13 

In  one  part  of  their  campaign  these  religious  forces  had  pow- 
erful allies.  When  they  urged  legislation  to  maintain  the  Sabbath 
that  forbade  all  work  on  that  day,  they  could  count  upon  the 
support  of  the  Knights  of  Labor  and  the  American  Federation 
of  Labor.  But  on  the  issue  of  recreation  on  the  Lord's  Day  there 
was  a  definite  parting  of  the  ways.  Labor  was  as  much  in  favor  of 
complete  Sunday  freedom  in  this  respect  as  the  religious  re- 
formers were  opposed  to  it.  Times  had  greatly  changed,  but  the 
forces  of  labor  could  ask  their  religious  friends,  as  King  James 
had  asked  the  leaders  of  Puritan  reform,  "For  when  shall  the 
common  people  have  leave  to  exercise  if  not  upon  the  Sundayes 
and  Holydays,  seeing  they  must  apply  their  labour,  and  winne 
their  living  in  all  working  dayesF* 

The  fight  to  maintain  the  sanctity  of  the  Lord's  Day  was  in- 
evitably foredoomed  in  the  light  of  changing  social  conditions. 
"Where  is  the  city  in  which  the  Sabbath  is  not  losing  ground?" 
one  discouraged  reformer  asked  in  1887.  "To  the  mass  of  the 
workingmen  Sunday  is  no  more  than  a  holiday ...  it  is  a  day  for 
labor  meetings,  for  excursions,  for  saloons,  beer-gardens,  baseball 
games  and  carousels/* 24 

In  the  West,  if  not  in  the  East,  even  the  theatres  were  open- 
ing on  the  Sabbath.  Sunday  notices  in  such  a  paper  as  the 
Chicago  Tribune  advertised  special  attractions  for  the  day— a 
spectacular  melodrama  at  one  theatre  and  a  comic-opera  com- 
pany at  another.  AH  the  variety  houses  and  music-halls  were 
open.25  There  was  no  question  that  the  city  had  broken  the 
shackles  imposed  upon  Sunday  amusements  by  religious  dogma. 
And  the  freedom  once  won  would  not  be  surrendered.  Judged  by 
modern  standards,  great  numbers  of  Americans  still  observed  the 
Sabbath  religiously,  but  for  many  others  the  day  had  become  by 
the  1890*5  one  for  play  and  enjoyment  which  presented  a  striking 
contrast  to  conditions  in  mid-century.  It  was  the  most  important 


single  development  of  the  late  nineteenth  century  increasing  the 
opportunities  of  the  common  man  for  recreation, 

ON  A  VISIT  to  this  country  during  these  years,  the  English  soci- 
ologist Herbert  Spencer  recognized  the  changes  that  had  come 
over  the  recreational  scene.  He  also  drew  attention  to  another 
aspect  of  the  popular  attitude  toward  amusement.  "Old  Froissart, 
who  said  of  the  English  of  his  day  'that  they  take  their  pleasures 
sadly  after  their  fashion/**  Spencer  wrote,  "would  doubtless,  if 
he  lived  now,  say  of  the  Americans  that  they  take  their  pleasures 
hurriedly  after  their  fashion.  In  large  measure  with  us,  and  still 
more  with  you,  there  is  not  that  abandonment  to  the  moment 
which  is  requisite  for  full  enjoyment,  and  this  abandonment  is 
prevented  by  the  ever-present  sense  of  multitudinous  responsi- 
bilities." 26 

It  was  natural  that  Americans  should  not  entirely  escape  the 
shadow  of  work  in  their  play,  should  carry  into  it  something  of 
the  competitive  spirit  which  characterized  their  otiber  activities. 
In  the  best  of  circumstances  there  was  likely  to  be  that  residue 
from  old  traditions.  Horace  Greeley  had  noted  the  tendency  to 
make  play  a  business  rather  than  a  diversion  from  business  as 
early  as  1876.  He  complained  that  with  teachers  for  every  art, 
science,  and  "ology,"  there  should  be  no  room  for  professors  of 
play.  "Who  will  teach  us  incessant  workers,"  he  asked  plaintively, 
"how  to  achieve  leisure  and  enjoy  it?**  *7 

And  in  1880  James  A.  Garfield,  iu  an  address  at  Lake  Chau- 
tauqua,  had  made  a  striking  characterization  of  the  age  on  whose 
threshold  America  now  stood  which  both  emphasized  and  carried 
one  step  further  the  ideas  expressed  by  Horace  Greeley.  **We 
may  divide  the  whole  struggle  of  the  human  race  into  two 
chapters,"  Garfield  declared;  "first,  the  fight  to  get  leisure;  and 
then  the  second  fight  of  civilization—  what  shall  we  do  with  our 
leisure  when  we  get  it."  28 

In  going  on  to  discover  what  Americans  were  now  doing  with 


their  increasing  leisure,  it  must  be  realized  that  the  pattern  of 
recreation  had  become  inconceivably  complex.  Every  year  new 
strands  were  being  woven  into  it.  At  no  point  is  it  possible  to 
draw  a  complete  picture  of  America  at  play.  The  scene  in  the 
18SO*s  and  1890's  can  only  be  traced  in  broadest  outline  through 
a  general  account  of  the  principal  diversions  of  the  various 
groups  that  made  up  contemporary  society. 


the  past  century?  Everything,  and  nothing.  But  the  great 
mass  of  city  dwellers  sought  out  as  they  had  throughout  the  century 
the  most  lively  and  exciting  popular  entertainment.  In  the  1840's 
spokesmen  of  labor  had  declared  that  the  intolerable  burden  of 
working  conditions  in  the  city  demanded  "excitement  fully  pro- 
portioned to  the  depression."  It  was  even  truer  half  a  century 
later.  Imperial  Rome  had  sought  to  appease  the  restlessness  of  its 
laboring  masses  by  providing  the  free  spectacles  of  the  circus  and 
gladiatorial  combat  Imperial  America  had  its  amusement  pal- 
aces, its  prize-fights,  its  concert-saloons,  for  which  the  modern 
workingman  had  to  pay. 

These  phases  of  recreation  now  bulked  larger  than  ever  on  the 
national  horizon.  The  tremendous  growth  of  cities  made  them  of 
great  importance.  In  1850  there  had  been  but  eighty-five  urban 
communities  with  a  population  of  more  than  8,000;  there  were 
almost  seven  times  as  many  by  the  end  of  the  century.  Between 
1880  and  1900  alone  the  urban  population  had  more  than 
doubled,  rising  from  fourteen  to  thirty  million.  New  York  and 
Brooklyn  accounted  for  over  two  million  in  1890;  Chicago  and 
Philadelphia  for  over  a  million  each;  Boston,  Baltimore,  and 
Washington  for  about  half  a  million  apiece.  There  were  in  all 
twenty-eight  cities  with  more  than  100,000  inhabitants.1 

These  great  masses  of  people  were  made  up  of  aH  types  and 
all  nationalities.  In  Chicago  the  foreign-born  numbered  nearly  as 
many  in  1890  as  the  entire  population  ten  years  earlier.  Germans, 
Swedes,  Norwegians,  Bohemians,  Irish,  Italians,  Poles,  thronged 



its  busy  streets.  New  York  presented  an  even  more  polyglot  popu- 
lation. It  had  as  many  Italians  as  Naples,  as  many  Germans  as 
Hamburg,  twice  as  many  Irish  as  Dublin,  and  two  and  a  half 
times  as  many  Jews  as  Warsaw,  It  had  thickly  settled  districts 
taken  over  in  their  entirety  by  Hungarians,  Greeks,  Syrians, 
Chinese.3  In  large  part  the  foreign  elements  carried  on  the  hum- 
bler tasks  of  society,  but  they  also  began  to  crowd  and  push  the 
native  Americans  in  this  bustling,  thriving  urban  world.  Com- 
petition was  intense.  Yet  every  year  more  people  were  irresistibly 
drawn  to  metropolis  from  rural  America.  In  some  parts  of  the 
country  there  was  actual  depopulation.  New  England  villages 
were  abandoned  as  their  inhabitants  fled  to  the  great  eastern 
manufacturing  centers;  even  in  Missouri,  eastern  Iowa,  south- 
eastern Indiana,  and  western  Illinois  the  countryside  was  de- 
pleted in  favor  of  the  young  and  vigorous  cities  of  the  Middle 

These  swarms  of  newcomers  from  the  country  and  from  abroad 
went  into  all  trades  and  occupations.  They  became  day  labor- 
ers, street-car  conductors,  mechanics,  factory-hands,  teamsters. 
hod-carriers,  clerks,  grocers,  haberdashers,  restaurant  keepers, 
carpenters,  policemen . . .  and  also  domestic  servants,  garment- 
workers,  salesgirls,  typists,  telephone  operators. . . .  New  occupa- 
tions were  opening  up  every  day  as  the  city  and  the  machine 
more  and  more  dominated  the  changing  economy. 

Despite  long  hours  of  work  and  the  economic  precariousness 
of  their  lives,  or  all  the  more  because  of  such  conditions,  these 
wage-earners  were  eager  for  amusement  of  any  kind.  Little  at- 
tention was  paid  to  their  social  welfare.  The  cities  had  not  yet 
developed  their  present  park  systems;  there  were  no  municipal 
recreation  programs.  It  was  difficult  if  not  impossible  to  escape 
crowded  streets  and  noisome  tenements.  The  sports  and  outdoor 
activities  being  so  widely  taken  up  by  the  country  at  large  were 
not  yet  within  the  realm  of  practical  possibility  for  the  majority 
of  urban  workers.  Their  entertainment  was  necessarily  passive, 
commercialized,  and  cheap. 

Sunday  "Social  Freedom'"  in  the  Bowery 

A  religious  paper's  view,  Illustrated  Christian  \Yeeklij,  18Ti  Courtesy  of 
the  Xew  York  Historical  Society, 

A  CJfcagD  Pool-Room  on 
Drying  by  I  de  Tliulstrup.  titrp&'s  \\'eettij,  1S92. 


Barnum  had  pioneered  in  meeting  such  limitations  of  taste 
and  pocket-book.  He  had  had  innumerable  imitators.  Public 
amusements—  tawdry  though  they  might  often  be,  sometimes 
vicious—  had  expanded  with  the  growth  of  cities  at  a  rate  never 
before  known.  The  American  metropolis  far  surpassed  that  of 
Europe  in  the  wealth  and  variety  of  entertainment  it  offered  to 
its  surging  population. 

THE  MID-CENTUBY  THEATRE  had  played  a  leading  r61e  in  satisfying 
urban  needs.  We  have  seen  the  great  playhouses  of  the  period  • 
packed  with  **all  classes  of  fraternized  humanity."*  But  now  the 
separation  of  different  types  of  theatrical  entertainment  just  start- 
ing in  the  1850's  had  been  earned  through  to  its  logical  con- 
clusion. The  circus,  the  variety  show,  and  burlesque  were 
completely  divorced  from  the  legitimate  stage.  There  was  a  new 
popular  theatre  of  farce  and  melodrama  quite  distinct  from  the 
serious  drama  and  polite  comedy  produced  for  the  world  of  cul- 
ture and  education. 

The  old  stock  companies  had  also  largely  given  way  to  a  fur- 
ther variant  of  the  star  system.  Managers  staged  what  they  hoped 
would  be  a  successful  play,  in  the  main  built  up  about  a  single 
actor  or  actress,  and  kept  it  on  the  boards  as  long  as  they  possibly 
could.  Its  welcome  exhausted  in  the  city,  it  was  then  sent  to  the 
provinces.  The  "traveling  combination*  typified  the  theatre  of  the 
1890*s,  and  there  was  a  phenomenal  growth  in  the  quantity,  if 
not  the  quality,  of  companies  on  the  road.  They  brought  to  many 
smaller  cities  whatever  had  first  pleased  metropolitan  audiences, 
both  popular  entertainment  and  the  more  sophisticated  plays. 
Throughout  the  country  "temples  of  amusement"  with  the 
people's  own  prices  (ten,  twenty,  and  thirty  cents)  blatantly 
defied  the  "temples  of  art"  given  over  to  classic  revivals  and 
contemporary  problem  plays. 

The  new  Bowery  in  New  York,  opening  on  the  eve  of  the  Civil 
War,  had  been  one  of  the  first  of  the  truly  popular  theatres.  A 


reporter  of  the  Herald  found  the  house  on  its  first  night  "jammed 
with  the  democracy,  unwashed  and  unterrified,  to  the  number 
of  a  couple  of  thousand."  In  a  smoke-laden  atmosphere  redolent 
of  beer  and  sweat,  this  boisterous  audience  watched  the  play 
with  an  enthusiasm  untempered  by  any  polite  conventions.  A 
sergeant-at-arms  with  a  rattan  cane  did  what  he  could  to  keep 
the  Boweiy  Tbhoys"  in  order,  but  woe  betide  the  player  who  did 
not  please  that  shirt-sleeved  gallery.  Catcalls  and  hisses  might 
still  be  emphasized,  as  they  had  been  in  an  earlier  day,  by  a  bar- 
rage of  eggs  and  rotten  fruit,* 

Many  of  this  theatre's  old  customs  survived  at  the  Bowery  of 
the  1890's.  It  was  a  house  which  combined  melodrama  and 
variety  for  the  delectation  of  as  rough-and-ready  an  audience  as 
ever  crowded  its  predecessor.  Admission  to  a  box  was  seventy-five 
cents,  but  the  gallery  cost  only  a  dime.  House  policemen  en- 
deavored to  maintain  order.  The  officer  assigned  to  the  parquet 
was  accustomed  to  stand  throughout  the  performance  with  his 
back  to  the  orchestra  leader,  a  formidable  figure  with  long  black 
mustaches,  wearing  a  derby.  Any  one  who  became  too  noisy 
would  feel  the  sharp  rap  of  his  cane  and  the  hissed  warning, 
"Cheese  it!"  The  theatre  had  a  convenient  bar.  Throughout  the 
show  waiters  hurried  about,  and  glasses  of  foaming  beer  were 
continually  being  passed  back  and  forth.5 

TTie  People  s,  the  Windsor,  the  Third  Avenue,  the  National, 
the  London,  were  other  popular  New  York  houses  largely  given 
over  to  melodrama  at  ten  to  thirty  cents.6  Chicago  had  a  bloc 
of  what  were  called  provincial  theatres,  presenting  ''entertain- 
raent  of  the  more  democratic  type."  The  Alhambra  and  the 
Madison  Street  Opera  House  had  a  wide  fame.  At  the  Park  the 
actresses  were  glad  to  join  members  of  the  audience  for  a  casual 
drink,  and  boys  sold  rotten  cabbages— even  an  occasional  dead 
cat— to  the  gallery  gods.7  An  air  of  somewhat  greater  respectabil- 
ity hovered  over  Boston's  Grand  Opera  House  and  the  People's 
Theatre  in  Philadelphia  (it  was  advertised  as  "the  largest  and 
handsomest  popular  price  theatre  in  America"),  but  standards 


of  decorum  were  not  unduly  high.  The  playhouses  of  San  Fran- 
cisco and  other  western  cities  granted  nothing  to  those  of  the  East 
in  their  air  of  democratic  informality. 

Hie  dime-novel  influence  dominated  this  popular  theatre. 
Melodrama  was  all  the  rage,  staged  with  extravagant  elaboration. 
Four  acts  with  twenty-odd  scenes  were  the  rule  for  a  good 
sizzling  play  of  death  and  destruction.  Harbor-fronts  with  lap- 
ping waves  of  real  water  were  ingeniously  constructed,  and 
rugged  papier-mach6  mountains  erected  with  rock  faces  and 
fearsome  precipices.  Horses  raced  on  treadmills,  railroad  trains 
were  wrecked,  and  violent  explosions  sent  the  property  houses 
crashing.  Through  these  exciting  scenes  strode  scowling,  heavy- 
mustached  villains  who  treacherously  bound  lovely  girls  on  the 
railroad  tracks  before  approaching  locomotives,  or  locked  them 
in  gloomy  subterranean  dungeons  while  the  river  slowly  rose  to 
the  only  window.  But  the  handsome  hero  was  always  in  time  for 
a  dramatic  last-minute  rescue.  Murder,  arson,  burglary  were 
vividly  depicted— everything  but  rape  and  seduction.  The  theme 
often  involved  the  pitfalls  that  beset  the  innocent  country  girl 
lured  to  the  big  city,  but  she  was  invariably  saved  from  that  fate 
worse  than  death. 

There  were  five  main  characters  in  this  popular  drama,  and  the 
audience  came  to  know  exactly  what  to  expect  of  each  of  them— 
the  hero  and  heroine,  the  light-comedy  boy,  the  soubrette,  and 
the  heavy  man.  Owen  Davis,  accustomed  at  this  period  to  turn 
out  ten  to  twenty  melodramas  a  year  reaching  an  audience  of 
seven  million  (he  had  a  good  plot,  he  explained),  once  tried  to 
have  the  comedy  boy  fall  in  love  with  some  one  other  than  the 
soubrette.  He  had  to  revise  his  play:  the  audience  was  too  be- 

The  melodramas  were  written  by  the  -ream— Under  the  Gas- 
light (one  of  the  earliest  and  most  popular),  Only  a  Working 
Girl,  The  Limited  Mail,  Dangers  of  a  Great  City,  The  Turf  Dig- 
ger's Doom,  The  Power  of  Gold,  Wilful  Murder,  and  Nellie,  the 
Beautiful  Cloak  Model.  In  On  the  Bowery  Steve  Brodie  himself 


jumped  off  a  shaky  Brooklyn  Bridge  and  plunged  through  the 
trap  amid  a  shower  of  rock  salt  thrown  up  by  stage-hands.  The 
"Natal  Cadet  found  James  J.  Corbett  heroically  saving  the  heroine 
from  a  foul  cellar  dive:  "So  you've  come  for  the  gal,"  sneered 
the  villain,  gliding  stealthily  forward,  an  ugly  knife  clenched  be- 
tween his  gleaming  teeth.  Gentleman  Jim  would  calmly  take  off 
his  white  gloves,  lay  them  carefully  beside  his  silk  hat,  and  step 
forward.5'  How  the  audience  stamped  and  shouted  as  evil  was 
vanquished  by  honor  in  the  person  of  the  new  champion  prize- 

Virtue  always  won  in  the  last  round  of  melodrama.  Poverty  was 
honorable  and  innocence  unassailable.  Currency  was  given  to  the 
most  noble  sentiments.  "An  honest  shop  girl  is  as  far  above  a 
fashionable  idler  as  heaven  is  above  earth,"  the  honest  shop  girl 
sententiously  declaimed.  Sympathetic  audiences  at  The  White 
Slate  learned  for  all  time  that  "rags  are  royal  raiment  when  worn 
for  virtue's  sake." 

Most  popular  of  all  the  melodramas  were  the  westerns,  re- 
flecting the  romantic  glamour  that  clung  to  the  passing  frontier. 
Its  wild  and  woolly  heroes  appeared  in  person— "Texas  Jack" 
Omohundro,  "Wild  Bill"  Hickok,  and  "Buffalo  Bill"  Cody.  They 
reenacted  for  cheering  audiences  saloon  brawls,  stage-coach 
hold-ups,  and  blood-curdling  Indian  attacks.  Trusty  rifles  and 
murderous  six-shooters  barked  continuously  in  The  Gambler  of 
the  West,  and  at  every  bark  another  redskin  bit  the  dust.  Between 
the  acts  Jack  Dalton  threw  bowie-knives  at  Baby  Bess,  the  Pet  of 
the  Gulch,  and  Rattle  Snake  Oil  was  sold  at  a  dime  a  bottle 
in  the  lobby.10 

After  his  success  in  such  plays  as  The  Scouts  of  the  Plains  and 
The  Red  Right  Hand;  or  The  First  Scalp  for  Custer— their  thrill- 
ing scenes  sometimes  interpolated  (shades  of  Mr.  Barnum! )  with 
a  temperance  lecture— Buffalo  Bill  launched  his  Wild  West, 
Rocky  Mountain  and  Prairie  Exhibition.  It  went  from  triumph 
to  triumph,  playing  to  over  a  million  people  in  one  five-months 
season:  Indians,  cowboys,  Mexicans;  wild  Texas  steers  and  buf- 


faloes;  the  Deadwood  Coach  and  Sitting  Bull;  Annie  Oakley  and 
Buffalo  Bill  himself  in  his  broad  white  sombrero.11 

Almost  as  popular  as  the  melodrama,  greatly  favored  by  the 
lone  male  in  the  big  city,  were  the  burlesque  shows.  They  had 
come  in  shortly  after  the  Civil  War,  in  those  wicked  days  when 
the  cancan  was  all  the  rage  and  English  burlesque  queens  first 
offered  up  their  "fatted  calves  at  the  shrine  of  a  prodigal  New 
York  audience." 12  There  had  been  outraged  protests  against  this 
type  of  show.  Critics  almost  wept  at  the  public  s  "porcine  taste 
for  indelicate  buffoonery,"  but  the  managers  of  the  popular 
theatres  knew  a  good  thing,  from  a  strictly  commercial  point  of 
view,  when  they  saw  it.  If  reformers  chose  to  describe  a  produc- 
tion as  a  "disgraceful  spectacle  of  padded  legs  jigging  and 
wriggling  in  the  insensate  follies  and  indecencies  of  the  hour,"  it 
seldom  hurt  box-office  receipts.13 

The  modern  version  of  burlesque  soon  omitted  entirely  the 
gaily  extravagant  satire  which  had  distinguished  the  early  per- 
formances of  the  Black  Crook  Company,  the  British  Blondes,  the 
Red  Stocking  Blondes.  The  advertisements  of  the  lS90's  told  the 
whole  story:  "50— Pairs  of  Rounded  Limbs,  Ruby  Lips,  Tanta- 
lizing Torsos— 50."  Many  theatres  in  the  large  cities  were  given 
over  entirely  to  this  entertainment;  traveling  companies  took  it 
on  the  road.  In  1895  Sam  T.  Jack,  "King  of  Burlesque,"  was  pro- 
prietor of  Lily  Clay's  Colossal  Gaiety  Company,  the  Ada  Rich- 
mond Folly  Company,  the  Creole  Burlesque  Company. . . .  The 
rounded  limbs  and  dazzling  torsos  of  these  merry  maidens  were 
clothed  in  "close-fitting,  flesh  colored  silk  tights,"  but  the  Madison 
Street  Opera  House  in  Chicago  happily  advertised  that  this  was 
really  far  more  attractive  than  no  costume  at  alL14 

Variety  also  had  come  into  its  own  in  this  popular  theatre;  it 
was  taking  form  and  shape  as  modern  vaudeville.  The  transition 
was  an  important  one.  While  the  acts  did  not  differ  greatly  from 
those  at  Niblo's,  the  American  Museum,  or  the  mid-century 
Theatre  of  Mirth  and  Variety,  they  marked  a  distinct  improve- 
ment over  the  music-hall  show  that  had  flourished  in  the  1860*s 


and  1870V  Recognizing  that  there  was  a  far  larger  audience  for 
this  type  of  entertainment  if  it  were  reasonably  decent,  a  new 
generation  of  producers  was  determined  to  rescue  variety  from 
the  ill  repute  into  which  it  had  fallen  and  elevate  it  to  "a  high 
plane  of  respectability  and  moral  cleanliness." irs 

Tony  Pastor  had  initiated  refined  vaudeville,  entertainment 
for  the  whole  family,  in  New  York,  and  his  famous  theatre  was 
soon  rivaled  by  the  Globe,  the  Olympic,  and  the  Theatre 
Comique.  Other  cities  gave  it  a  no  less  enthusiastic  welcome.  By 
the  ISSO's  there  were  six  vaudeville  houses  in  Philadelphia,  two  in 
Baltimore,  two  in  Chicago,  three  in  St.  Louis,  and  three  in  San 
Francisco.30  As  in  the  case  of  melodrama  and  burlesque,  traveling 
companies  took  it  on  the  road.  Among  the  more  popular  troupes 
listed  by  M.  N.  Leavitt,  who  controlled  six  companies  himself, 
were  Tony  Pastor's  Combination,  Hany  Minor's  Comedy  Four, 
Tillotson's  Varieties,  The  All  Star  Specialty  Company,  and  Charlie 
Shay's  Quincuplexals.  Here  was  a  new  departure  in  entertainment 
—"natural  offspring  of  the  old-time  minstrel,  circus  and  variety 
sketch  stage." ir 

There  were  acrobats  and  trained  animals,  sentimental  ballads 
and  comic  songs,  bicycle-riders  and  fancy  roller-skaters,  jugglers 
and  magicians,  innumerable  dancing  acts— all  the  tricks  and 
stunts  that  have  always  been  a  lowly  adjunct  of  the  legitimate 
stage.  Often  one-act  farces  or  comedies  were  given— Lost  in  New 
York  or  The  Mud  Town  Rubes.  Sometimes  there  were  prudent 
borrowings  from  burlesque. 

Among  the  head-liners  in  the  1890's  were  Weber  and  Fields, 
Montgomery  and  Stone,  Maggie  Cline  singing  "Throw  Him 
Down,  McCloskey,"  and  Lillian  Russell  "Kiss  Me  Mother,  Ere  I 
Die";  Cannencita  in  her  Spanish  dances;  Sandow,  the  Strong 
Man;  the  Russell  Brothers  in  short  skirts  ("Maggie,  have  you  put 
fresh  water  in  the  goldfish  bowl?"  "No,  they  ain't  drunk  up  what 
I  give  'em  yesterday. *);  Pat  Rooney  dancing  his  famous  jig; 
and  the  Cohan  family  with  Master  George  in  The  Lively  Boot- 
black and  Peck's  Bad  Boy.18 


The  entry  into  this  profitable  field  of  entertainment  of  B.  F. 
Keith  and  F.  F.  Proctor  brought  about  still  further  expansion  of 
vaudeville.  The  former  introduced  the  continuous  performance 
at  his  Boston  theatre  in  1883  (Barnum  had  offered  it  for  holidays 
half  a  century  earlier  at  his  American  Museum),  and  a  decade 
later  Proctor  adopted  it  at  his  New  York  Pleasure  Palace.  At  the 
Ladies'  Club  Theatre  still  another  forward  step  was  taken—the 
show  began  at  11  A.M.  and  ran  for  twelve  hours.18 

As  vaudeville  spread  to  the  provinces,  theatres  were  organized 
in  chains,  and  a  nation-wide  system  for  booking  individual  acts 
was  developed.  The  two-a-day  circuit  came  into  being.  One 
group  of  theatres  alone  was  estimated  to  provide  entertainment 
for  five  million  every  year.  Refined  vaudeville,  observed  one 
commentator  at  the  close  of  the  century,  belonged  to  the  era  of 
the  short  stoiy  and  the  department  store:  "It  may  be  a  kind  of 
lunch  counter  art,  but  then  art  is  so  vague  and  lunch  is  so  real."  20 

There  were  performances  at  the  popular  theatres  other  than 
melodrama,  burlesque,  and  vaudeville.  Farces,  musical  shows, 
comedies,  and  serious  drama  were  sometimes  produced.  The 
better  houses  warmly  welcomed  the  stars  of  the  legitimate  stage; 
there  was  still  a  taste  for  good  theatre.  Even  the  People's  and 
the  Windsor,  on  New  York's  notorious  Bowery,  interrupted  their 
usual  programs  to  stage  Macbeth,  King  Lear,  and  Hamlet?1-  But 
in  comparison  with  an  earlier  day,  the  general  public  was  far 
more  interested  in  shows  which  pretended  to  be  nothing  more 
tb^n  entertainment.  It  unreservedly  approved  **the  cheap  and 
coarse  sensationalism"  decried  by  the  critics.  It  thoroughly  en- 
joyed *the  silly  buffoonery  and  vulgar  nonsense"  which  offended 
the  purists.  When  Keith,  and  Proctor  joined  forces  early  in  the 
twentieth  century  to  establish  their  well-known  circuit,  the  num- 
ber of  houses  under  their  control  alone  soon  grew  to  four  hun- 
dred.23 Vaudeville,  spiced  with  melodrama  and  burlesque,  had 
become  the  principal  commercial  amusement  of  America's  urban 


DIME  MUSEUMS,  dance-halls,  shooting-galleries,  beer-gardens, 
bowling-alleys,  billiard-parlors,  saloons,  and  other  more  ques- 
tionable resorts  made  up  another  whole  world  of  entertainment 
whose  glaring  gas-lights  symbolized  the  lure  of  the  wicked  city. 
And  in  the  1890s  it  often  was  wicked.  It  was  an  age  of  notori- 
ously corrupt  municipal  governments.  The  line  between  virtue 
and  vice  was  hard  to  distinguish;  perfectly  respectable  places 
of  entertainment  shaded  off  imperceptibly  into  notorious  dives. 
There  were  plenty  of  dance-halls  that  found  "the  young  mechan- 
ics and  dressmakers  in  their  glory,"  but  as  many  where  the  floor 
was  crowded  with  prostitutes.  Every  large  city  had  its  red-light 
district  given  over  to  saloons  and  sporting-houses.  Drinking, 
gambling,  and  prostitution  had  become  tremendous  social  prob- 
lems as  the  size  of  the  constantly  growing  cities  made  control 
more  and  more  difficult,  particularly  when  politics  formed  its 
profitable  alliance  with  vice. 

The  dime  museums,  which  preyed  upon  the  gullibility  of  their 
patrons  rather  than  upon  any  less  innocent  tastes,  had  taken  over 
the  curiosities  and  freaks  which  had  always  had  a  peculiar  at- 
traction for  the  populace.  Again  Mr.  Barnum  had  pointed  the 
way.  Here  could  be  seen  the  fat  woman  and  the  sword-swallower, 
the  bearded  lady  and  the  ossified  girl,  the  tattooed  man  and  the 
iron-jawed  lady.  There  were  always  a  stuffed  mermaid,  a  wild 
man  from  Borneo,  and  a  snake-charmer.  What  passer-by  could 
resist  the  feverish  ballyhoo  of  the  museum  barker  when  he  offered 
them— frankly— such  a  show  as  the  world  had  never  seen?  TThe 
greatest,  the  most  astounding  aggregation  of  marvels  and  mon- 
strosities ever  gathered  together  in  one  edifice!  From  the  ends 
of  the  earth,  the  wilds  of  darkest  Africa,  the  miasmic  jungles  of 
Brazil,  the  mystic  waters  of  the  Yang-tse-Kiang,  the  cannibal  isles 
of  the  Antipodes,  the  frosty  slopes  of  the  Himalayas  and  barren 
steppes  of  the  Caucasus;  sparing  no  expense,  every  town,  every 
village,  every  hamlet,  every  nook  and  cranny  of  the  globe  has 
been  searched  with  a  fine-tooth  comb  to  provide  a  feast  for  the 
eye  and  mind No  waiting,  no  delays.  Step  up,  ladies  and 


gentlemen,  and  avoid  the  rush.  Tickets  now  selling  in  the  door- 

Sometimes  a  special  performance  would  be  given  in  the  base- 
ment with  such  celebrities  as  Jo-Jo,  the  Dog-faced  Boy,  or  Peer- 
less Corinne,  the  Circassian  Princess  and  Sword  Swallower.  And 
an  extra  dime  was  often  drawn  from  the  unwary  by  the  promise 
of  a  chance  to  see  "the  unclad  female  form  in  all  its  loveliness"— 
generally  a  dim  view  of  a  show-window  dummy. 

Music-halls,  free-and-easies,  concert-saloons,  provided  an  op- 
portunity to  drink  in  the  garish  atmosphere  created  by  music, 
scantily  dressed  girl  waitresses,  and  beautiful  entertainers. 
Chicago,  which  liked  to  call  itself  the  Paris  of  America,  had  scores 
of  these  places,2*  but  New  York  really  held  unchallenged  leader- 
ship. In  1898  the  police  of  Gotham  listed  ninety-nine  amusement 
resorts,  including  saloons  with  music  and  entertainment,  on  the 
Bowery  alone.  They  classed  only  fourteen  of  them  as  respect- 
able.25 It  was  at  one  of  these  places  that  a  singing  waiter  named 
Izzy  Baline,  crooning  to  delighted  audiences  such  songs  as  "Just 
Break  the  News  to  Mother"  and  "You  Made  Me  What  I  Am 
Today,"  started  on  a  career  which  led  to  fame  and  fortune  on 
Tin  Pan  Alley  under  the  name  of  Irving  Berlin. 

At  dance-halls  and  other  establishments,  local  social  clubs  held 
balls  and  assemblies  as  they  had  since  mid-century,  generously 
inviting  the  public  at  the  usual  admission  charge  (lady  included) 
of  one  dollar.  The  Zig  Zag  Club  social  was  an  event  in  San  Fran- 
cisco; Chicago  went  in  for  masquerade  balls;  and  a  fixture  of  the 
New  York  social  calendar  was  the  annual  ball  at  Tammany  Hall 
of  the  Chuck  Connors  Association.  The  latter  was  a  democratic 
assemblage.  Members  of  the  Racquet  Club  and  the  New  York 
Athletic  Club  came  down  town  to  mingle  with  representatives  of 
the  Knickerbocker  Icemen,  the  East  Side  Democratic  and  Pleas- 
ure Association,  the  Lee  Hung  Fat  Club,  and  the  Lady  Truck 

Toward  the  dose  of  the  century  the  electric  trolley  began  to 
provide  a  Sunday  or  holiday  substitute  for  these  amusements. 


Steamboat  and  even  railroad  excursions  had  long  been  possible, 
but  here  was  a  far  easier  and  cheaper  means  of  getting  away 
from  the  city.  The  trolley  ride  was  an  outstanding  feature  of 
week-end  recreation:  the  amusement  parks  to  which  the  pleasure- 
seekers  were  carried  became  the  holiday  Mecca  of  thousands 
upon  thousands  of  workers.3*  A  writer  in  Harper's  Weekly,  im- 
pressed by  the  immense  crowds  that  throughout  the  summer 
took  advantage  of  these  excursions,  described  the  parks  as  "the 
great  breathing-places  for  the  millions  of  people  in  the  city  who 
get  little  fresh  air  at  home." r7  And  another  observer  declared 
that  their  pastimes  yielded  more  enjoyment  "than  all  the  courtly 
balls  and  fashionable  dissipation  indulged  in  by  fortune's  fa- 
vorites.5* SB 

The  new  rapid-transit  companies  not  only  offered  reduced 
rates  for  daytime  trips  into  the  country,  but  advertised  special 
trolley  carnivals  in  the  evening— the  cars  gaily  illuminated  with 
multicolored  lights  and  boasting  even  a  number  of  musicians 
to  provide  popular  band  music.  They  established  their  own 
amusement  resorts  in  the  outskirts  of  cities  from  Claremont,  New 
Hampshire,  to  San  Antonio,  Texas.  Some  of  these  parks  had  little 
more  than  a  pavilion  or  dance-hall;  others  had  all  possible  attrac- 
tions—roller coasters,  merry-go-rounds,  circle  swings,  bump-the- 
bumps*  and  shoot-the-chutes.  In  1S93  the  Ferris  Wheel  crowned 
the  attractions  of  the  Midway  at  Chicago's  World  Fair,  and  soon 
thereafter  it  was  the  star  feature  of  hundreds  of  trolley  parks 
throughout  the  country, 

Chicago  had  its  Cheltenham  Beach,  popular  for  barbecues 
and  clam-bakes,  and  later  its  famous  White  City.  There  were 
Paragon  Park  near  Boston,  the  Chutes  at  San  Francisco,  and 
Forest  Park  Highlands  at  St.  Louis.  Crowds  listened  to  band  con- 
certs, watched  balloon  ascensions  and  parachute  jumps,  cheered 
at  professional  bicycle  races.  At  Manhattan  Beach  near  Denver 
there  was  an  ostrich  farm  and  two  open-air  theatres.  Willow 
Grove  at  Philadelphia  had  an  auditorium  seating  ten  thousand 

Winter  Amateur  Athletic  Meet  at  the  Boston  Athletic  Club 
Drawing  by  Hemy  Sandham.  Harper's  Weeldy,  1890. 

77ir  Bathing  Hour  on  the  Beach  at  Atlantic  City 
Drawing  by  Frank  H.  Schell.  Harper*  Weekly,  1890. 

A  Double  Play  to  Open  the  League  Season 

Boston  at  NVw  Vurk.  Drawing  by  \V.  P.  Snyder.  Harpers  Weekly,  1836. 


Coney  Island  also  had  by  this  time  those  varied  entertainments 
which  continue  to  draw  throngs  of  New  Yorkers  every  summer 
day.  Bathing-houses  lined  the  beach,  minstrel  bands  pkyed  on 
the  boardwalk,  and  everywhere  the  shrill  cry  of  barkers  adver- 
tised carrousels,  freak  shows,  shooting-galleries,  and  dance-halls. 
In  1897  George  G  Tilyou  opened  his  famed  Steeplechase  Park 
with  a  fantastic  array  of  his  own  inventions—  the  Bounding  Bil- 
lows, Blow  Hole,  Barrel  of  Love,  Human  Roulette  Wheel,  Elec- 
tric Seat,  and  Razzle  Dazzle.30  There  was  *a  spurious  toboggan 
slide  of  mammoth  proportions,"  one  observer  noted,  and  on  the 
boardwalk  was  being  sold  something  new  and  strange  which 
proved  a  more  practical  mobile  form  of  nourishment  than  the 
clam  chowder  which  had  formerly  ruled  supreme.  This  new  con- 
coction was  "a  weird-looking  sausage  muffled  up  in  two  halves 
of  a 

ONE  of  the  most  poplar  acts  on  the  vaudeville  stage  in  these 
days  was  De  Wolf  Hopper's  rendering  of  a  famous  poem: 

Oh!  somewhere  in  this  favored  land  the  sun  is  shining  bright; 
The  band  is  playing  somewhere,  and  somewhere  hearts  are  light. 
And  somewhere  men  are  laughing,  and  somewhere  children  shout; 
But  there  is  no  joy  in  Mudvffle—  mighty  Casey  has  struck  out31 

It  was  sign  and  symbol  of  the  immense  interest  and  enthusiasm 
baseball  everywhere  aroused.  The  fans  crowded  the  grand  stands 
and  packed  the  bleachers  almost  every  summer  afternoon  to 
watch  the  professional  teams.  "The  fascination  of  the  game," 
Harpers  Weekly  commented,  Tias  seized  upon  the  American 
people,  irrespective  of  age,  sex  or  other  condition.*82  It  was 
estimated  that  daily  attendance  at  the  games  of  clubs  organized 
under  the  National  Agreement  was  some  sixty  thousand,  with  the 
annual  total  amounting  to  almost  eight  million.*8  When  the 
matches  of  small-town  clubs  and  semiprofessional  leagues  were 
included,  it  was  many  times  this  figure.  Baseball  had  come  a  long 
way  from  those  early  beginnings  traced  in  mid-century.  It  was 


far  and  away  the  leading  spectator  sport,  a  boon  to  bank  clerk 
and  factors-worker,  shopkeeper  and  mechanic,  the  business  exec- 
utive and  his  office-boy. 

Together  with  the  growth  in  popular  interest,  there  had  been  a 
number  of  changes  in  the  game  itself  since  the  National  League 
was  organized  in  1876.  The  umpire  had  been  empowered  to  call 
four  balls  and  three  strikes;  a  ball  had  to  be  caught  on  the  fly 
for  the  batsman  to  be  out— in  his  hands  and  not  in  his  cap,  as 
the  practice  had  been;  restrictions  on  pitching  had  been  removed 
to  make  possible  new  refinements  in  curves  and  fade-aways; 
gloves  were  being  worn;  and  the  risks  of  the  catchers  position 
had  been  reduced  by  arming  him  with  mask,  breastpad,  and  mitt. 
There  had  been  difficulty  over  the  best  type  of  ball.  It  was  at 
first  too  fast  Among  the  immense  scores  rolled  up  in  this  period 
was  one  of  201  to  11  at  a  game  in  Buffalo.  Then  the  substitute 
ball  had  proved  too  dead.  A  twenty-four  inning  game  between 
Harvard  and  Manchester  ended  in  a  scoreless  tie.  Finally  a  better 
balanced  ball  made  more  reasonable  scores  the  rule.  The  game 
became  generally  faster,  and  with  much  improved  playing,  it  was 
more  exciting  than  ever.8* 

The  National  League  had  a  friendly  rival  in  the  American 
Association,  with  which  it  held  an  annual  championship  series, 
but  in  1889-90  a  serious  threat  developed  to  its  dominance  over 
the  professional  game.  The  players  themselves,  in  protest  over 
what  they  considered  unfair  practices,  attempted  to  win  control 
through  organization  of  the  National  Brotherhood  of  Baseball 
Players.  Big-league  ball  was  thrown  into  chaos;  attendance 
dwindled  away  alarmingly.  But  the  revolt  was  short-lived.  The 
Brotherhood  collapsed  after  a  single  season,  dragging  the  Amer- 
ican Association  down  in  its  fall,  and  the  National  League 
emerged  from  the  conflict  stronger  than  ever.  It  was  left  alone 
in  the  field  with  twelve  member  dubs,  six  in  the  East  and  six 
in  the  West,  and  it  did  not  again  have  a  major  rival  (although 
there  were  many  minor  associations)  until  the  formation  of  the 
American  League  in  1899.8B  After  a  brief  struggle  for  supremacy, 


these  two  associations  amicably  divided  the  field  represented  by 
the  larger  cities,  and  their  establishment  of  an  official  World 
Series  in  1903  added  still  more  to  popular  interest. 

Professional  baseball  had  become  at  once  big  business,  enter- 
tainment for  the  masses,  and  the  guide  and  mentor  of  the 
thousands  of  amateur  players  throughout  the  country.  Every  city 
followed  closely  the  fortunes  of  its  own  team,  with  the  newspa- 
pers giving  tremendous  publicity  to  all  league  games.  The  genius 
of  the  sporting  page  had  already  arrived  half  a  century  ago,  and 
he  was  enriching  the  American  language  with  the  expressive, 
pungent  vocabulary  of  sport.  On  May  4,  1891,  Chicago  won  a 
notable  victory  over  Pittsburgh  under  the  inspired  leadership 
of  *Pop"  Anson.  On  the  following  morning  Leonard  Dana  Wash- 
burn  started  his  account  of  the  affray  in  the  Chicago  Inter-Ocean 
in  a  new  style  of  reporting: 

You  can  write  home  that  Grandpa  won  yesterday. 

And  say  in  the  postscript  that  Willie  Hutchinson  did  it.  The  sweet 
child  stood  out  in  the  middle  of  the  big  diamond  of  pompadour 
grass  and  slammed  balls  down  the  path  that  looked  like  the  biscuits 
of  a  bride.  The  day  was  dark,  and  when  Mr.  Hutchinson  shook  out 
the  coils  of  his  right  arm,  rubbed  his  left  toe  meditatively  in  the  soil 
he  loves  so  well,  and  let  go,  there  was  a  blinding  streak  through  the 
air  like  the  tail  of  a  skyrocket  against  a  black  sky.  There  would  follow 
the  ball  a  hopeless  shriek,  the  shrill,  whistling  noise  of  a  bat  grippling 
with  the  wind,  and  a  dull,  stifled  squash  like  a  portly  gentleman 
sitting  down  on  a  ripe  tomato 

There  were  ten  of  the  visiting  delegation  who  walked  jauntily  to  the 
plate  and  argued  with  the  cold,  moist  air.  Mr.  Field  lacerated  the 
ethereal  microbes  three  times  out  of  four  opportunities  to  get  solid 
with  the  ball,  and  Brer  Lewis  Robinson  Browning  walked  away  from 
the  plate  with  a  pained  expression  twice  in  succession.  The  Gastown 
folks  found  the  ball  six  times.  Two  of  their  runs  were  earned. 

Mr.  Staley,  who  pitches  for  the  strangers,  did  not  have  enough 
speed  to  pass  a  street  car  going  in  an  opposite  direction.  His  balls 
wandered  down  toward  the  plate  like  a  boy  on  his  way  to  school.  If 
our  zealous  and  public-spirited  townsmen  did  not  baste  them  all  over 
that  voting  precinct  it  was  because  they  grew  weary  and  faint  waiting 
for  them  to  arrive. . .  ,se 


The  entire  country7  was  proud  of  the  Chicago  White  Sox  and 
the  All-American  team  that  A.  G.  Spalding  took  on  a  world  tour 
in  18SS-S9,  playing  in  Ceylon,  in  the  shadow  of  the  pyramids, 
and  before  the  Prince  of  Wales  in  England.37  Baseball  had  its 
national  heroes,  worshiped  by  small  boys  from  Maine  to  Cali- 
fornia* There  was  not  an  American  who  did  not  recognize  the 
fame  of  "Pop"  Anson,  "Iron  Man"  Joe  McGinnity,  and  Honus 
Wagner,  or  know  the  significance  of  "Slide,  Kelly,  Slide.7*  It 
was  the  national  game  beyond  possible  dispute. 

"Let  me  say,"  declared  Cardinal  Gibbons  in  a  speech  made 
in  1S96,  "that  I  favor  Base  Ball  as  an  amusement  for  the  greatest 
pleasure-loving  people  in  the  world. ...  It  is  a  healthy  sport,  and 
since  the  people  of  the  country  generally  demand  some  sporting 
event  for  their  amusement,  I  should  single  this  out  as  the  one 
best  to  be  patronized  and  heartily  approve  of  it  as  a  popular 
pastime," sa 

WERE  other  spectator  sports,  though  none  really  compared 
with  baseball  in  popular  appeal,  during  this  period  at  the  close 
of  the  past  century.  Racing  and  trotting  matches  were  flourish- 
ing, drawing  large  crowds  to  the  rapidly  multiplying  city  tracks. 
Chicago  had  three,  and  four  clustered  about  New  York.  It  was 
the  day  of  Salvator's  reign  as  the  horse  of  the  century.  His  sen- 
sational victoiy  over  Tenny  at  Sheepshead  Bay  was  cheered  by 
an  excited  mob  of  many  thousands.89  Professional  rowing  matches 
—from  single  sculls  to  six-oared  lap-streak  gigs— created  more 
excitement  than  they  ever  have  since.  In  the  days  of  the  memo- 
rable duel  between  Edward  Hanlan,  Canada's  Boy  in  Blue,  and 
Charles  E.  Courtney,  later  coach  at  Cornell,  they  were  a  major 
sport40  Intercollegiate  football,  of  course,  had  its  followers,  but 
we  shall  trace  its  further  development  in  a  later  chapter— it  was 
still  more  a  sport  of  society  than  of  the  masses. 

If  there  was  a  rival  to  the  national  game  in  sustained  popular 
interest,  it  was  prize-fighting,  not  wholly  out  from  tinder  the 


cloud  of  disapproval  but  nevertheless  arousing  a  nation-wide  ex- 
citement which  official  bans  on  championship  bouts  in  no  way 
diminished.  The  fortunes  of  favorite  bruisers  were  followed 
avidly,  and  although  it  was  still  true  that  comparatively  few 
people  actually  saw  the  fights,  the  reports  of  them  were  read  by 
millions.  An  English  visitor  was  somewhat  shocked  that  his 
newspaper  one  morning  in  1892  gave  twelve  prominent  columns 
to  a  championship  bout  while  the  death  of  John  Greenleaf  Whit- 
tier  rated  only  a  single  inside  column.41  But  it  was  a  correct 
appraisal  of  public  interest 

The  great  event  of  the  prize-fight  world  was  the  emergence  of 
a  champion  of  champions  who  dominated  the  ring  from  1882  to 
1892.  America  has  perhaps  never  had  a  sports  hero  comparable 
to  John  L.  Sullivan,  the  Strong  Boy  of  Boston.  He  climbed  to 
eminence  over  the  prone  body  of  Paddy  Ryan,  but  it  was  when 
he  knocked  out  Jake  Kilrain  in  a  fierce,  grueling,  seventy-five- 
round  battle  at  New  Orleans,  the  last  of  the  bare-knuckle  cham- 
pionship fights,  that  the  great  John  L.  was  acknowledged  lord 
of  all  he  surveyed.  His  fame  resounded  throughout  the  world 
after  this  epic  encounter,  from  which  he  won  a  purse  of  $20,000 
and  a  diamond-studded  championship  belt  presented  by  The 
Police  Gazette*2 

Boston's  hero— the  city  once  turned  out  en  masse  to  honor 
him  at  a  ceremony  which  found  the  Boston  Theatre  packed:  the 
aldermen  and  mayor  in  the  boxes,  Beacon  Street  in  the  orchestra, 
and  the  gallery  overflowing  with  the  Irish  *8— owed  his  tremen- 
dous popularity  to  an  aggressive  pugnacity  which  made  him 
always  eager  for  a  fight.  He  toured  the  country,  first  offering  $50, 
and  then  raising  the  ante  to  $1,000,  to  any  one  who  would  stay 
with  him  four  rounds.  Mobs  fought  their  way  to  see  him  when- 
ever he  appeared.  On  one  occasion  New  York's  new  Madison 
Square  Garden  was  crowded  to  the  doors  with  a  motley  throng 
which  embraced  every  element  in  the  city's  diverse  population 
from  Fifth  Avenue  to  the  Bowery.  His  only  losing  fight  was  with 
that  insistent  enemy  John  Barleycorn.  Once  when  the  great 


John  L,  was  scheduled  to  fight  Charlie  Mitchell,  the  English 
boxer,  liquor  won  the  preliminary  round.  When  the  gong  rang, 
the  Strong  Boy  staggered  into  the  ring,  not  in  his  usual  green 
trunks  encircled  by  an  American  flag,  but  in  full  evening  dress 
with  a  shirt-front  flashing  with  diamonds.  He  was  ready  to  fight 
—he  was  always  ready,  drunk  or  sober—  but  to  the  bitter  disap- 
pointment of  an  excited  audience  the  referee  called  off  the  bout44 
When  Sullivan  finally  went  down  to  defeat  at  the  Olympic 
Club  in  New  Orleans  before  Gentleman  Jim  Corbett,  fighting 
under  the  Marquis  of  Queensberry  rules,  with  five-ounce  gloves, 
the  world  appeared  to  totter.  An  incredulous  public  refused  to 
believe  the  dire  news  which  appeared  in  bold-face  headlines 
from  coast  to  coast  The  Strong  Boy  of  Boston  knocked  out? 
It  was  not  believed  possible.  A  sorrowing  poet  sang  of  his  down- 
fall. To  the  tune  of  *Throw  Him  Down,  McCloskey"  the  entire 
country  joined  in  the  chorus: 

John  L.  has  been  knocked  out!  the  people  all  did  cry 

Corbett  is  the  champion!  how  the  news  did  fly. 

And  future  generations,  with  wonder  and  delight, 

Will  read  in  history's  pages  of  the  Sullivan-Corbett  fight.45 

Corbett  reigned  for  five  years,  another  popular  champion,  and 
then  on  St  Patrick's  Day,  1897,  was  knocked  out  by  the  flying 
fists  of  Robert  Prometheus  Fitzsimmons,  inventor  of  the  solar- 
plexus  punch.  The  bout  was  held  in  Carson  City,  went  to  four- 
teen rounds,  and  was  fought  for  a  $15,000  purse. 

THE  SOCIAL  cmuzATtON-  of  a  people,"  Lord  Lytton  has  written, 
"is  always  and  infallibly  indicated  by  the  intellectual  character 
of  its  amusements."  4fl  On  the  basis  of  those  most  widely  enjoyed 
by  the  urban  democracy  of  the  nineteenth  centuiy,  American 
civilization  would  not  appear  to  have  attained  a  very  high  leveL 
Living  and  working  conditions  in  the  large  city  were  primarily 
responsible  for  this.  "When  there  is  a  lade  of  nourishing  food 


and  of  the  tonic  of  pure  air,"  a  thoughtful  contemporary  ob- 
served, "debilitated  nerves  crave  excitement;  hence  the  large 
number  of  saloons,  gambling  hells,  dance  halls,  and  theatres  in 
the  most  crowded  portions  of  the  city." 47 

It  is  easy  to  overemphasize  these  more  lurid  aspects  of  urban 
recreation.  Any  account  of  public  amusements  forces  far  into 
the  background  the  simpler  pleasures  of  home  and  family  life. 
Nevertheless  it  does  remain  true  that  the  concentration  of  such 
large  numbers  of  people  in  very  small  areas,  working  with  the 
intensity  enforced  by  the  new  industrialism,  made  them  de- 
mand in  their  leisure  hours  stimulation  that  could  relieve  the 
strain  of  their  long  day  in  factory,  store,  or  office.  The  simplicity 
and  spontaneity  of  community  life  in  the  country  or  small  town 
could  not  be  preserved  in  the  city.  Mass  entertainment  was  an 
inevitable  development  Excursions  into  the  country,  the  oppor- 
tunity to  enjoy  sports  for  themselves,  other  active  types  of  amuse- 
ment were  developing,  but  at  a  discouragingly  slow  rate.  The 
democracy  had  asserted  in  ever-stronger  terms  its  right  to  play. 
America  had  become  a  pleasure-loving  nation,  but  the  charac- 
ter of  its  amusements,  in  so  far  as  the  urban  population  was  con- 
cerned, could  not  but  cause  serious  misgivings. 

The  new  century  was-  to  witness  many  changes.  Living  and 
working  conditions  were  to  be  improved,  stricter  and  more 
honest  supervision  was  adopted  for  places  of  amusement  that 
were  definitely  undesirable,  and  the  growth  of  city  park  systems 
soon  held  out  the  promise  of  greater  opportunities  for  outdoor 
activities.  Recreation  became  a  primaiy  concern  of  the  twentieth- 
century  social  movement  to  reform  the  evils  of  urban  life,  and 
there  was  already  impending  a  revolution  in  the  field  of  com- 
mercial amusements  which  was  to  have  incalculable  effects*  Al- 
though it  could  hardly  be  recognized  at  the  time,  the  1890s  rep- 
resented the  culminating  stage  in  the  development  of  many  of 
those  popular  forms  of  entertainment  which  were  the  past  cen- 
tury's answer  to  the  needs  of  metropolis. 



A  any  country  and  at  any  time,  an  exceptional  opportunity 
for  the  display  of  wealth  and  the  assertion  of  social  importance. 
Thorstein  Veblen  has  graphically  demonstrated  this  conscious 
or  unconscious  motivation  in  many  forms  of  recreation.  It  is 
clearly  evident  throughout  American  social  history.  The  worthy 
citizens  of  eighteenth-century  Philadelphia  vied  with  each  other 
in  the  magnificence  of  their  banquets,  loading  their  tables  with 
massive  silver  plate  and  serving  such  a  choice  selection  of  im- 
ported wines  that  the  visiting  John  Adams  stood  amazed  at  the 
"sinful  feasts.**  The  planters  of  Virginia  rode  to  hounds  in  close 
imitation  of  the  English  country  squires  whose  social  status  they 
sought  to  emulate  in  every  possible  way.  Merchants  of  New  York 
and  Boston  were  already  aspiring  to  yachts  in  the  185ffs,  their 
sons  to  membership  in  the  exclusive  boating  clubs,  while  all  the 
fashionable  world  sought  out  Saratoga  or  Newport  as  a  step 
upward  on  the  social  ladder. 

It  was  in  the  latter  half  of  the  past  century,  however,  the 
Gilded  Age  of  American  civilization,  that  society  most  flagrantly 
bent  its  pleasures  to  display.  The  newly  rich  born  of  industry's 
great  advance  since  the  Civil  War— owners  of  railways,  copper- 
mines,  textile-mills,  steel-plants,  packing-houses,  and  cattle 
ranches— sought  to  establish  social  leadership  through  their  ex- 
travagance in  entertainments  and  amusements.  A  little  band  of 
idle  rich  held  the  final  redoubt  in  the  fashionable  world  of  the 
1880  s  and  1890's,  and  the  families  of  the  new  plutocracy  felt  it 
essential  to  prove  beyond  shadow  of  doubt  that  they  too  were 



idle  and  rich.  It  was  not  in  the  American  tradition,  which 
esteemed  riches  and  abhorred  idleness,  but  urban  society  was 
running  after  strange  gods.  And,  in  any  event,  the  new  plutocrats 
generally  supplied  the  riches  and  left  it  to  willing  wives  and  a 
younger  generation  to  demonstrate  the  idleness. 

With  the  first  post-war  boom  in  the  1S60X  observers  began  to 
note  that  New  York  society  was  becoming  entirely  based  upon 
wealth,  social  prestige  being  won  by  those  who  had  the  most 
splendid  carriages,  drawing-rooms,  and  opera  boxes.  George 
Makepeace  Towle  has  described  the  balls  and  assemblies—ladies 
in  sparkling  tiaras,  suppers  of  oysters  and  champagne,  fountains 
gushing  wine  or  sprays  of  perfume.  He  was  somewhat  horrified 
by  "so  unceasing  a  round  of  glittering  gaiety  and  dissipation."  * 
The  advance  of  the  new  millionaires  was  picturesquely  described 
as  "the  Gold  Rush*  by  representatives  of  older  social  traditions. 
TFrom  an  unofficial  oligarchy  of  aristocrats,"  Mrs.  John  King  Van 
Rensselaer  sadly  wrote,  "society  was  transformed  into  an  extrava- 
gant body  that  set  increasing  store  by  fashion  and  display."  2 

Nor  was  New  York  alone  in  this  competitive  rage  for  showy 
display.  A  sycophant  press  might  boast  that  its  ornate  fancy-dress 
balls  and  ten-thousand-dollar  dinner  parties  were  the  most  ex- 
pensive ever  known,  but  the  world  of  fashion  throughout  the 
land  was  closely  following  its  lead.  There  was  an  epidemic  of 
gaudy  magnificence  in  the  amusements  of  what  went  for  society. 
One  Chicago  magnate  brought  an  entire  theatrical  company  from 
New  York  to  entertain  a  group  of  his  friends,  and  a  wealthy 
woman  in  another  city  engaged  a  large  orchestra  to  serenade 
her  new-born  child.3  San  Francisco  was  notorious  for  its  "terribly 
fast  so-called  society  set,  engrossed  by  the  emptiest  and  most 
trivial  pleasures."  *  A  fortunate  miner  who  had  struck  it  rich  in 
Virginia  City  drove  a  coach  and  four  with  silver  harness;  another 
had  champagne  running  from  the  taps  at  his  wedding  party.5 

The  famous  ball  with  which  Mrs.  William  K,  Vanderbilt 
crashed  the  gates  of  society  in  1883  was  admitted  by  the  press 
to  have  been  more  magnificent  than  the  entertainments  of  Alex- 


ander,  Cleopatra,  or  Louis  XIV.6  It  was  soon  outshown  by  other 
affairs  of  New  York's  Four  Hundred.  In  his  Society  as  I  Have 
Found  It,  Ward  McAllister  describes  dinner  parties  with  squad- 
rons of  butlers  and  footmen  in  light  plush  livery,  silk  stockings, 
and  powdered  hair;  orchestras  concealed  behind  flowered 
screens;  and  every  out-of-season  fruit  and  vegetable  served  on 
golden  plates.  At  society's  fancy-dress  balls,  men  weighed  down 
in  suits  of  medieval  armor  tripped  over  their  swords  as  they 
attempted  to  dance  quadrilles;  the  women  wore  wreaths  of  elec- 
tric lights  in  their  hair  to  add  a  new  luster  to  their  diamonds.7 

"Everything  that  skill  and  art  could  suggest,**  McAllister  notes 
at  one  point,  "was  added  to  make  the  dinners  not  a  vulgar  dis- 
play, but  a  great  gastronomic  effort,  evidencing  the  possession 
by  the  host  of  both  money  and  taste."8  But  always  taste  was 
secondary,  and  Croesus  was  crowned  society's  Lord  of  Misrule. 
A  marveling  correspondent  of  the  London  Spectator  found  Amer- 
ica's newly  rich  pouring  out  money  on  festal  occasions  as  from 
a  purse  of  Fortunatus,  making  feasts  as  of  the  Great  King  Bel- 

For  one  ball  the  host  built  a  special  addition  to  his  house 
providing  a  magnificent  Louis  XTV  ball-room  which  would  ac- 
commodate twelve  hundred.  Another  time  a  restaurant  was  en- 
tirely made  over  with  a  plum-shaded  conservatory,  a  Japanese 
room,  and  a  medieval  hall  hung  with  Gobelin  tapestries  especially 
imported  from  Paris.  At  a  reception  given  at  the  Metropolitan 
Opera.  House,  twelve  hundred  guests  danced  the  Sir  Roger  de 
Coverley  on  a  floor  built  over  stage  and  auditorium,  and  were 
then  served  supper  at  small  tables  by  three  hundred  liveried  serv- 
ants. It  was  a  world  of  jewels  and  satins,  of  terrapin  and  canvas- 
backs,  of  Chdteau  Lafite  and  imported  champagne— "luxurious  in 
adornment . . .  epicurean  in  its  feasting." 10 

In  the  cities  of  the  West,  where  the  golden  stream  flowed  so 
freely  in  these  thriving  days  and  those  who  would  scale  society's 
heights  often  had  so  much  to  forget,  even  greater  extravagances 
were  sometimes  recorded.  It  took  many  diamonds  and  much 

Trotting  Cracks  of  Philadelphia  Returning  from  the  Races 

Having  a  brush   past  Turner's   Hotel,   Rope   Ferry   Road.    Lithograph  by 
H.  Pharazvn,  1STO.  Coiirtesv  of  the  New  York  Historic-ill  Society. 

Turnouts  in 
Central  Park 

Lithograph  by  Cur- 
rier and  Ives  after 
sketches  from  life 
by  Thomas  Worth, 
1870.  J.  Clarence 
Davies  Collection, 
Museum  of  the 
City  of  New  York. 

Baltimore  Society  Dances  for  Charity 

Grand  ball  at  the  Academy  of  Music  for  the  benefit  of  the  Nursery  and 
Child's  Hospital.  Frank  Leslie's  Illustrated  Newspaper,  1880. 


wine  for  some  of  the  new  dowagers  to  erase  entirely  the  mark 
of  the  laundry  tub  or  kitchen  sink.  Only  money  could  do  it,  and 
the  sensational  inspired  most  newspaper  copy.  The  new  plutoc- 
racy gave  dinners  at  which  cigarettes  were  wrapped  in  hundred- 
dollar  bills  or  the  guests  found  fine  black  pearls  in  their  oysters. 
For  one  gala  occasion  the  room  was  filled  with  cages  of  rare 
song-birds  and  dwarf  fruit-trees,  while  half  a  dozen  graceful 
swans  swam  in  a  miniature  lake.  There  was  a  famous  horseback 
dinner.  The  guests  were  attired  in  riding  habits,3*  wrote  Fred- 
erick Townsend  Martin;  "the  handsomely  groomed  horses 
pranced  and  clattered  about  the  magnificent  dining-room,  each 
bearing,  besides  its  rider,  a  miniature  table.  The  hoofs  of  the 
animals  were  covered  with  soft  rubber  pads  to  save  the  waxed 
floor  from  destruction.'' zl 

The  Bradley  Martin  ball  in  1897  created  the  greatest  sensa- 
tion of  the  Gilded  Age.  The  ball-room  of  the  Waldorf-Astoria 
Hotel  was  converted  into  a  replica  of  Versailles  and  sumptuously 
decorated  with  rare  tapestries  and  beautiful  flowers,  Mrs.  Bradley 
Martin,  as  Mary  Queen  of  Scots,  wore  a  necklace  of  Marie  An- 
toinette's and  a  cluster  of  diamond  grapes  once  owned  by  Louis 
XTV.  The  suit  of  gold-inlaid  armor  worn  by  Mr.  Belmont  was 
valued  at  ten  thousand  dollars.  The  publicity  given  this  affair 
was  incredible.  The  New  fork  Times  and  the  Herald  virtually 
gave  over  their  front  pages  to  descriptions  of  it,  and  the  London 
papers  all  carried  cabled  dispatches.  On  the  morning  after  the 
affair,  the  London  Daily  Matt,  with  allowance  for  the  difference 
in  time,  reported:  TMrs.  Bradley  Martin,  we  have  every  reason 
to  believe,  is  dressed  at  this  very  moment  in  a  train  of  black 
velvet  lined  with  cerise  satin,  and  a  petticoat,  if  it  is  not  indis- 
creet to  say  so,  of  white  satin,  embroidered  with  flowers  and 
arabesques  of  silver."  The  London  Chronicle  congratulated  New 
York  society  on  its  triumph— It  has  cut  out  Belshazzar's  feast 
and  Wardour  Street  and  Mme.  Tussaud's  and  the  Bank  of  Eng- 
land. There  is  no  doubt  about  that'* 

But  there  were  limits  to  which  even  the  American  public 


would  go  in  condoning  such  heartless  extravagance  in  a  year 
when  there  was  widespread  distress  among  the  poor.  The  storm 
of  disapproval  that  followed  in  the  train  of  this  ball  drove  the 
Bradley  Martins  out  of  the  country.  Depressed  by  their  unex- 
pected notoriety,  they  settled  permanently  in  England.12 

FOR  ALL  the  lavish  prodigality  of  these  affairs,  and  despite  the 
widespread  publicity  they  obtained,  they  were  not  important. 
They  directly  touched  the  lives  of  only  a  very  small  coterie  in 
the  upper  brackets  of  the  fashionable  world*  Society  in  a  broader 
sense,  members  of  the  community  in  which  wealth  was  allied 
with  culture,  had  many  other  forms  of  recreation  where  their 
patronage  had  some  real  significance.  One  of  these  was  the  legiti- 
mate stage,  as  contrasted  with  the  more  popular  theatrical  en- 
tertainment of  the  urban  democracy. 

The  small,  luxuriously  appointed  theatres  where  reserved  seats 
ranged  in  price  from  one  to  three  dollars  had  become  the  home 
of  a  relatively  exclusive  amusement  Every  city  had  its  fashion- 
able playhouses.  Writing  of  New  York,  Henry  Collins  Brown 
speaks  of  the  friendly  social  atmosphere  of  Wallaces,  Daly's 
Fifth  Avenue  Theatre,  the  Madison  Square  ("most  exquisite 
theatre  in  all  the  world"),  and  the  Union  Square.  In  Chicago 
there  were  McVicker's  and  Hooley's;  Boston  offered  the  Museum 
and  the  old  Boston  Theatre.  These  houses  appealed  to  the  car- 
riage trade.  Here,  in  a  new  elegance  of  surroundings—  the  pit 
had  become  the  parquet  with  sloping  floor;  upholstered  plush 
seats  were  furnished  throughout;  steam  heat  (the  Lyceum  also 
had  "medicated  air,  charged  with  ozone")  had  replaced  the 
foyer  stove;  and  the  new  electric  lights  were  being  installed— 
the  world  of  fashion  could  enjoy  the  play  in  a  quiet  and  com- 
fortable atmosphere  far  removed  from  the  democratic  hurly- 
burly  of  mid-century.13 

The  productions  at  these  theatres  generally  centered  about 
some  starred  actor  or  actress,  although  a  few  able  stock  com- 


panics  still  survived,  and  they  often  achieved  long-sustained 
runs  comparable  to  those  of  to-day's  popular  plays.  With  the 
great  expansion  of  popular  entertainment  for  the  masses,  it  had 
become  not  only  possible  but  also  necessary  for  managers  of  the 
better  theatres  to  pay  more  attention  to  the  cultural  standards 
of  their  comparatively  limited  and  sophisticated  audience.  There 
were  revivals  of  Shakespeare  and  other  classic  writers;  well- 
staged  productions  of  serious  contemporary  drama,  both  Ameri- 
can and  foreign;  and  comedies  and  light  operas  which  bore  little 
resemblance  to  the  blood-and-thunder  melodrama  and  question- 
able burlesque  that  ruled  at  the  people's  theatres. 

Contemporary  critics  often  failed  to  realize  that  the  divorcing 
of  popular  entertainment  from  the  legitimate  stage  rivaled  de- 
velopment of  the  star  system  as  the  outstanding  feature  of  theat- 
rical history  in  the  second  half  of  the  century.  Forgetting  the 
slapstick  and  circus  stunts  with  which  it  had  been  so  heavily  clut- 
tered, they  looked  back  nostalgically  to  the  theatre  of  an  earlier 
day  and  remembered  only  Shakespeare.  They  could  not  under- 
stand how  a  public  which  had  once  seemed  to  enjoy  the  drama 
so  much  had  shifted  its  allegiance  to  vaudeville  and  burlesque. 
Deciding  it  had  degenerated  into  "vulgarians,*'  they  damned  the 
producers  for  their  "practical,  shopkeeping  cultivation  of  this 
popular  appetite."  They  often  seemed  totally  unaware  that  vaude- 
ville's assumption  of  the  task  of  entertaining  the  million, 
which  the  theatre  itself  had  once  borne,  was  actually  affording 
the  legitimate  stage  far  greater  opportunity  for  the  development 
of  the  drama  than  it  had  ever  had  before  in  the  democratic 
society  of  America.14 

In  time  they  looked  back  upon  this  period,  as  dramatic  critics 
are  so  wont  to  do,  with  entirely  different  eyes.  In  retrospect  the 
actors  and  actresses  who  supported  the  legitimate  stage,  even  the 
plays  produced  at  the  more  fashionable  playhouses,  took  on 
Olympian  stature.  The  years  between  1870  and  1890  were  said 
in  many  critical  memoirs  to  stand  out  as  the  theatre's  golden 
age.15  The  last  decade  of  the  century  fell  under  something  of  a 


cloud.  The  rise  of  a  theatrical  trust,  dominated  by  a  group  of 
managers  who  appeared  to  be  deserting  the  ways  of  Wallack 
and  Daly,  threatened  to  impose  a  monopolistic  control  which 
considered  only  the  box-office.10  But  even  in  those  days  there 
could  be  no  real  question  that  dramatic  standards  were  far 
higher  than  in  mid-century. 

If  one  chose  one's  theatre,  it  was  not  necessary  to  see  an 
equestrian  exhibition  or  sensational  melodrama,  as  had  so  often 
been  the  case  in  the  first  half  of  the  century.  There  was  no  need, 
as  there  once  had  been,  to  sit  through  cheap  variety  acts  to  enjoy 
Romeo  and  Juliet,  or  listen  to  a  series  of  comic  songs  as  entr'actes 
in  a  performance  of  Hamlet.  And  in  response  to  a  more  intelli- 
gent audience,  contemporary  playwrights  were  beginning  to 
write  with  a  little  more  perception  and  sense  of  reality  than  had 
inspired  Putnam,  the  Iron  Son  of  76,  The  Lady  of  Lyons,  or 
The  Drunkard. 

Bronson  Howard  had  written  Young  Mrs.  Winthrop  and  Shen- 
andoah,  William  Gillette  his  Held  by  the  Enemy  and  Secret 
Service.  There  were  The  County  Fair  by  Charles  Barnard  and 
Neil  Burgess,  and  Steele  Mackaye's  phenomenally  successful 
Hazel  Kirk.  A  serious  attempt  to  introduce  realism  to  the  stage 
was  made  by  James  A.  Herne  with  Shore  Acres  and  Margaret 
Fleming.  Still  more  important,  perhaps,  were  the  plays  of  Euro- 
pean dramatists.  Ibsen,  Pinero,  Oscar  Wilde,  and  Shaw  all  had 
a  wide  and  friendly  reception  on  the  American  stage. 

In  this  golden  age  of  the  theatre,  Mrs.  Fiske  was  adding  to  her 
laurels  in  Becky  Sharp  and  A  DolFs  House;  Clara  Morris  played 
in  Camttle  and  Fanny  Davenport  in  Tosca;  Richard  Mansfield 
introduced  Cyrano  de  Bergerac;  E.  H.  Sothern  was  starring  in 
The  Prisoner  of  Zenda,  James  O'Neill,  the  father  of  Eugene 
O'Neill,  in  The  Count  of  Monte  Cristo  (in  which  he  acted  almost 
five  thousand  times),  and  William  Gillette  in  Sherlock  Holmes. 
Until  he  left  the  stage,  Edwin  Booth  was  the  greatest  of  Shake- 
spearean stars;  his  tour  of  the  country  with  Lawrence  Barrett  in 
1890  was  a  continuous  triumph.  There  was  none  really  to  take 


his  place.  But  Mansfield,  Barrett,  McCullough,  and  Mantel!  car- 
ried on  the  Shakespearean  tradition  among  the  actors,  while 
Julia  Marlowe  was  a  lovely  Rosalind  in  As  You  Like  It,  and 
Mary  Anderson  made  an  incomparable  Juliet  Many  other  names 
—producers,  dramatists,  and  actors— might  be  mentioned:  Charles 
Frohman  and  David  Belasco;  Augustus  Thomas  and  Clyde  Fitch; 
the  Barrymores,  John  Drew,  Otis  Skinner,  Mrs.  Leslie  Carter, 
Margaret  Anglin. . . .  There  were  also  such  foreign  stars  as  Henry 
Irving  and  Tommaso  Salvini,  Helena  Modjesfca,  Sarah  Bern- 
hardt,  and  Eleanora  Duse. 

Among  the  light  operas,  Pinafore,  first  of  the  delightful  con- 
coctions of  Gilbert  and  Sullivan  to  cross  the  Atlantic,  was  a  sen- 
sation. It  was  first  played  at  the  Boston  Museum,  on  November 
25,  1878,  then  in  San  Francisco  and  Philadelphia,  and  finally  in 
New  York.  There  it  was  produced  simultaneously  in  half  a  dozen 
theatres.  There  were  children's  companies,  church-choir  com- 
panies, and  colored  opera  companies  playing  Pinafore.  The  fish 
exhibition  had  to  be  removed  from  the  Aquarium  for  an  engage- 
ment in  what  had  been  Castle  Garden.17  All  New  York,  all  Amer- 
ica, sang  and  whistled  TLittle  Buttercup." 

Still  another  triumph  was  won  by  English  operetta  in  the 
1880's  when  Erminie  had  a  phenomenal  run  of  1,256  perform- 
ances at  the  New  York  Casino.  Soon  thereafter  the  Boston  Ideals 
presented  in  Chicago  the  most  popular  of  all  American  light 
operas,  Reginald  De  Koven's  Robin  Hood.  It  was  followed  by 
other  De  Koven  scores,  and  at  the  close  of  the  century  John 
Philip  Sousa  and  Victor  Herbert  were  further  embellishing  this 
type  of  polite  musical  entertainment  with  El  Caption  and  The 
Wizard  of  the  Nile. 

Concert  singing,  visits  by  foreign  musicians,  and  orchestral 
playing  also  revealed  a  growing  taste  among  the  sophisticated 
for  more  serious  music.  Jenny  Land  had  paved  the  way  for  the 
tours  of  European  artists  in  the  middle  of  the  century,  and  Ole 
Bull  had  made  two  memorable  visits.  In  the  1890*s  Ysaye,  Pader- 
efwski,  Fritz  Kreisler,  Adelina  Patti,  Mdba,  Calve,  and  Madame 


Schumann-Heink  were  all  on  tour.  Symphonic  music  had  had  its 
start  with  the  organization  of  the  New  York  Philharmonic  as 
early  as  1842,  but  it  was  not  until  1878  that  this  orchestra  had 
any  real  rival.  In  that  year  the  New  York  Symphony  Orchestra 
was  established,  to  be  followed  in  another  three  years  by  the 
Boston  Symphony,  and  in  1891  by  the  Chicago  Orchestra.  Walter 
Damrosch  and  Theodore  Thomas  were  adding  a  new  interest  to 
the  musical  scene. 

Grand  opera  also  had  become  firmly  established.  It  had  long 
been  a  distinctive  feature  of  the  social  life  of  New  Orleans,  and 
there  had  been  various  attempts  to  introduce  it  in  New  York  and 
other  cities.  Troupes  of  Italian  singers  had  come  and  gone; 
elaborate  opera  houses  had  been  opened— usually  to  fail  after 
one  or  two  seasons.  **W£U  this  splendid  and  refined  amusement 
be  supported  in  New  York?"  we  find  Philip  Hone  asking  in  1833. 
"I  am  doubtfuL"  And  for  almost  half  a  century  his  doubts  were 
largely  justified  It  was  in  1883  that  the  Metropolitan  Opera 
House,  costing  nearly  $2,000,000,  provided  grand  opera  with  its 
first  really  permanent  home  in  America.18 

The  opening  of  the  Metropolitan,  for  all  its  importance  in  the 
world  of  music  and  drama,  illustrated  even  more  vividly 
than  any  formal  dinner  or  fancy-dress  ball  society's  irresistible 
impulse  to  make  its  amusements  an  occasion  to  flaunt  its  wealth. 
For  true  music-lovers  of  the  1880*8  the  operas  currently  being 
given  at  the  Academy  of  Music  fully  met  all  artistic  standards. 
The  sole  difficulty  was  that  while  there  was  plenty  of  available 
room  at  these  performances  in  orchestra  and  galleries,  every  box 
at  the  Academy  was  taken  for  the  season.  And  society  had  made 
an  opera  box  one  of  the  hall-marks  of  social  success.  The  Metro- 
politan was  built  not  in  response  to  a  demand  for  music,  but  to 
meet  this  need  for  fashionable  display.19 

It  was  financed  by  a  group  of  social  aspirants  stung  into  action 
by  the  refusal  of  an  offer  of  $30,000  for  one  of  the  boxes  at  the 
Academy  of  Music.20  They  would  have  their  own  opera  house. 
Naturally  enough  its  predominant  feature  became  its  two  ornate 

When  Wallack's  Theatre  Was  New 
Harper's  Weekly,  1882. 

Defense  of  the  "Americas"  Cup 

Winner  .Vagif  leading.  Painting  by  James  E.  Butterwvorth,  1S70.  Courtesy 
oi  the  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art. 

AVu-  Ycrks  First  Coach 

Colonel  De  LUIK.VV  Kane's  "The  Tally-Ho"  on  its  first  run,  May  1,  1ST6. 
Lithograph  alter  a  painting  by  H.  C.  Bisphuzn.  Courtesy  of  Harr\;  T.  Peters. 


tiers  of  boxes.  At  the  fonna!  opening  it  was  toward  the  Golden 
Horseshoe  rather  than  the  stage  that  all  eyes  turned.  The 
Goulds  and  the  Vanderbilts  and  people  of  that  ilk/*  the  New 
York  Dramatic  Mirror  reported  with  forthright  candor  on  that 
memorable  occasion,  "perfumed  the  air  with  the  odor  of  crisp 
greenbacks.  The  tiers  of  boxes  looked  like  cages  in  a  menagerie 
of  monopolists,"  2l 

This  did  not  mean  that  the  Metropolitan  did  not  uphold  the 
highest  standards  of  operatic  art.  It  did.  Italian  operas  were 
staged  during  its  first  season,  and  musical  history  was  made  when 
German  music  and  the  Wagnerian  operas  were  given  the  Metro- 
politan's formal  approval  in  1884.22  The  company  made  an  an- 
nual post-season  tour,  visiting  Boston,  Chicago,  Cincinnati,  St. 
Louis,  Baltimore,  Washington.  .  .  .  The  world  of  society  in  these 
cities  had  its  opportunity  to  emulate  that  of  New  York.  Grand 
opera  took  its  place,  despite  a  sprinkling  of  more  humble  music- 
lovers  in  the  upper  galleries,  as  one  of  the  most  exclusive  and 
fashionable  of  all  diversions. 

SOCIETY  had  been  the  pioneer  in  the  promotion  of  sports.  We 
have  seen  that  in  the  middle  of  the  century  the  more  wealthy 
had  been  almost  the  only  people  with  the  leisure  and  means 
to  enjoy  them.  As  the  opportunity  to  play  games  became  avail- 
able for  a  wider  public  in  the  1890*5,  the  world  of  fashion  tended 
more  and  more  to  favor  those  activities  of  which  the  expense 
definitely  excluded  the  common  man.  The  same  impulse  that 
motivated  the  rivalry  over  elaborate  entertainment  and  opera 
boxes  was  responsible  for  an  attitude  toward  sport  in  which 
conspicuous  waste  rather  than  simple  enjoyment  became  the 
general  rule.  James  Gordon  Bennett,  Jr.,  determined  to  win  the 
position  in  society  denied  his  father,  made  sport  his  means  of 
entree  into  that  exclusive  world.  He  sailed  yachts  and  fought 
his  way  to  the  proud  post  of  commodore  of  the  New  York  Yacht 
Qub;  he  took  up  coaching  and  drove  his  four-in-hand  in  the 


Newport  parade;  he  introduced  polo  and  founded  the  West- 
chester  Polo  Club.23 

The  days  were  indeed  far  distant  when  society,  in  the  person 
of  members  of  the  old  Knickerbocker  Club,  had  taken  up  base- 
ball and  endeavored  to  keep  it  an  exclusive  pastime.  "Naturally," 
wrote  a  correspondent  of  Outing  in  1894,  describing  the  sporting 
life  of  fashionable  Philadelphia,  "since  baseball  is  so  much  of  a 
professional  game,  it  can  hardly  come  under  the  head  of  what 
we  recognize  as  out-of-door  recreation/* 2*  But  society  could  still 
approve  archery  and  tennis.  Tournaments  in  these  lawn  games 
remained  social  functions.  When  the  clubs  of  archers,  merry 
bowmen,  or  toxophilites  that  made  up  the  National  Archeiy 
Association  had  their  annual  meeting  in  1897  on  the  grounds  of 
the  Chicago  White  Sox,  band  music  and  refreshments  still  con- 
tributed to  the  enjoyment  of  a  select  gathering.25  The  tennis 
matches  at  Newport,  despite  increasing  interest  in  a  sport  which 
had  become  so  much  more  active  and  competitive,  were  also  a 
festival  of  the  fashionable  world.  As  late  as  1886  the  Tribune 
Book  of  Open-Air  Sports  complacently  stated  that  lawn  tennis 
remained  *the  game  of  polite  society,  essentially  one  for  ladies 
and  gentlemen.28 

Yachts  and  horses  were  expensive  enough  to  be  proof  against 
any  alarming  tendency  toward  democratization,  and  society  was 
enthusiastic  over  these  artistocratic  pastimes.  There  was  a  great 
revival  of  yachting,  marked  by  renewal  of  the  America's  Cup 
races.  The  wealthy  engaged  in  lively  competition  both  in  the 
regattas  for  smaller  boats  (the  one-design  classes  had  been 
introduced)  sponsored  by  such  organizations  as  the  New  York 
Yacht  Club,  and  in  the  purchase  of  expensive  and  elaborate 
ocean-going  yachts.  In  the  same  way,  ownership  of  a  stable  of 
thoroughbreds  became  highly  fashionable,  and  the  very  rich  ex- 
tended their  patronage  as  never  before  to  the  turf.  The  exclusive 
American  Jockey  Club  was  founded,  an  ultrafashionable  course 
laid  out  at  Jerome  Park,  and  the  Kentucky  Derby  became  an 
annual  feature  of  an  invigorated  racing  calendar.27  The  common 


man  could  watch  the  races,  and  the  gambling  fraternity  made  a 
profitable  living  from  betting  on  them,  but  only  the  very  wealthy 
could  support  a  stable. 

The  horse  was  glorified  in  other  ways.  Fox-hunting  in  the 
English  manner  was  taken  up  by  clubs  on  Long  Island,  in  the 
suburbs  of  Philadelphia,  and  in  Virginia  and  Maiyland.  In 
1885  the  National  Horse  Show  was  instituted,  to  become  one  of 
the  outstanding  social  events  of  the  year.  There  was  a  beginning 
of  polo,  introduced  in  1S76,  at  Westchester  and  Newport.  Coach- 
ing was  imported  from  England,  a  further  refinement  of  the 
fashionable  driving  that  already  crowded  the  roads  of  such  re- 
sorts as  Tuxedo  and  Lenox  with  expensively  turned  out  dog- 
carts, buckboards,  landaus,  and  phaetons.28 

The  annual  coaching  parade  in  New  York  was  one  of  the 
city's  most  colorful  shows.  Four-in-hand  drags  and  tally-hos 
bowled  down  Fifth  Avenue  in  the  crisp  autumn  air,  the  guards 
gaily  winding  their  horns,  while  crowds  lined  the  street  to  watch 
their  triumphant  progress.  The  coaches  were  painted  pink,  blue, 
or  dark-green  with  under-carriages  of  some  sharply  contrasting 
shade,  and  the  beautifully  matched  and  carefully  groomed  horses 
wore  artificial  flowers  on  their  throat-latches.  Society  rode  proudly 
atop  these  splendid  equipages,  the  men  in  striped  waistcoats 
and  silk  toppers,  the  ladies  holding  gay  parasols  over  their  im- 
mense picture  hats.29 

For  the  fullest  enjoyment  of  these  varied  sports,  a  new  insti- 
tution sprang  into  being  in  the  1880's— the  country  club.  The 
first  of  the  genus  is  believed  to  have  been  the  Brookline  Country 
Club,  near  Boston,  but  it  was  soon  followed  by  the  Westchester 
Country  Club,  the  Essex  Country  Club,  the  Tuxedo  Club,  the 
Philadelphia  Country  Club,  the  Meadowbrook  Hunt  Club,  and 
the  Country  Club  of  Chicago.  Those  near  the  shore  promoted 
yachting  and  sailing;  others  were  a  center  for  hunting,  pony- 
races,  and  polo.  Coaching  parties  drove  out  from  the  city  for 
sports  events,  dances,  teas,  and  the  animal  hunt  ball.80 

Together  with  such  pastimes  as  lawn  tennis,  archery,  and  trap- 


shooting,  some  of  these  clubs  began  also  to  provide  facilities 
for  a  game  new  to  America.  It  was  far  more  important  than 
yachting,  coaching,  or  polo.  It  was  not  for  very  long  to  remain, 
as  Harper's  Weekly  termed  it  in  1895,  "pre-eminently  a  game  of 
good  society/*  It  was  soon  to  give  rise  to  a  tremendous  growth 
in  country  clubs  which  were  to  become  the  special  prerogative 
of  the  great  middle  class  in  cities  and  towns  throughout  the 
country.  This  sport,  of  course,  was  golf. 

It  did  not  really  take  hold  in  this  country,  despite  its  hoary 
antiquity  in  Scotland  and  occasional  attempts  to  introduce  it  on 
this  side  of  the  Atlantic  ever  since  colonial  days,  until  after  1888. 
The  organization  in  that  year  of  the  St  Andrews  Club,  near  New 
York,  may  well  be  taken  as  the  first  important  date  in  golfs 
history  in  the  United  States.81  Other  courses  were  built— what- 
ever number  of  holes  was  most  convenient— after  St.  Andrews 
had  showed  the  way.  Soon  a  great  number  of  the  country  clubs 
about  Boston,  New  York,  and  Philadelphia  had  their  links.  By 
1892  golf  was  spreading  westward*  It  took  Chicago  by  storm 
and  moved  on  to  St.  Louis,  Milwaukee,  Denver,  and  the  Pacific 
Coast  In  1894  the  United  States  Golf  Association  was  formed.82 

No  other  game  has  evoked  such  scorn  among  the  uninitiated. 
The  democracy  still  considered  tennis  a  rather  feminine  game, 
a  chance  to  sport  white  flannels  and  gay-colored  blazers  rather 
than  exercise.  It  simply  did  not  know  what  to  make  of  the 
absurd  spectacle  of  enthusiastic  gentlemen  in  scarlet  coats  furi- 
ously digging  up  the  turf  in  frenzied— and  wholly  serious— efforts 
to  drive  a  little  white  ball  into  a  little  round  hole  some  hundreds 
of  yards  away.  Nor  were  the  red  coats  of  these  pioneer  golfers 
the  only  article  of  costume  that  seemed  singularly  inappropriate 
on  the  rolling  fairways  of  the  new  courses.  They  wore  elaborate 
leg-wrappings  to  protect  themselves  from  the  gorse  indigenous 
to  Scottish  hills  but  quite  foreign  to  this  country,  and  they 
pulled  down  over  their  foreheads  visored  caps  in  the  best  Sher- 
lock Holmes  tradition.  Women  had  not  yet  taken  up  the  game, 
although  it  was  already  being  urged  upon  them  as  an  admirable 


compromise  between  "the  tediousness  of  croquet  and  the  hurly- 
burly  of  lawn  tennis,"  but  together  with  wondering  little  boys 
who  had  been  pressed  into  service  as  caddies,  they  often  accom- 
panied their  lords  and  masters  about  the  links.  The  public  guf- 
fawed, little  dreaming  of  golfs  popularity  in  another  two  dec- 
ades or  of  the  public  courses  of  to-day.83 

IN  THE  FIELD  of  spectator  sports,  which  we  have  seen  becoming 
more  and  more  important  toward  the  close  of  the  century,  the 
world  of  fashion  also  showed  a  lively  interest.  If  it  paid  little 
attention  to  baseball,  it  rubbed  shoulders  with  the  roughest 
elements  of  the  sporting  world  at  horse-races  and  prize-fights, 
But  above  all  else  it  turned  out  en  masse  for  intercollegiate 
football.  The  games  of  the  Big  Three,  which  still  provided  the 
grand  climax  of  the  football  season,  were  fully  as  much  social 
as  sporting  events  in  the  1890's.  In  New  York  a  parade  of 
coaches  would  make  its  stately  way  to  the  playing-field.  No  small 
part  of  the  crowd,  after  lunching  on  chicken  sandwiches  and 
champagne,  watched  the  game  from  atop  tally-hos. 

"The  air  was  tinged  with  the  blue  and  die  orange  and  the 
black  as  the  great  throngs  poured  through  the  city  over  the 
bridges,  invaded  Brooklyn  and  swept  like  a  rising  tide  into 
Eastern  Park,3*  the  New  York  Tribune  reported  after  one  Yale- 
Princeton  game.  *They  came  by  the  railroads,  horsecars,  drags 
and  coaches  and  afoot  Coaches,  drags  and  tally-hos  decorated 
with  the  blue  or  the  orange  and  black  wound  through  the  thor- 
oughfares and  quiet  side  streets  in  a  glittering  procession, 
freighted  with  jubilant  college  boys  and  pretty  girls,  who  woke 
the  echoes  of  the  church  bells  with  the  cheers  and  tooting  of 
horns.  In  an  almost  endless  procession  they  inundated  the  big 
enclosure,  and  when  it  was  2  p.m.  the  sight  was  that  of  a  coli- 
seum of  the  nineteenth  century,  reflecting  the  changes  and  tints 
of  a  panoramic  spectacle."84 

The  great  crowds  attracted  by  football—  totaling  thirty  and 


forty  thousand 3C— were  naturally  not  entirely  made  up  of  those 
in  the  higher  social  brackets.  The  game  had  a  wider  appeal,  as 
the  tremendous  publicity  given  it  clearly  proves.  At  the  time 
of  the  Yale-Princeton  game  in  1895,  the  New  York  Journal  pub- 
lished a  full  two  and  a  half  pages  of  news  and  sketches— running 
accounts  of  the  game,  a  full  page  of  technical  descriptive  com- 
ment by  James  J.  Corbett,  signed  stories  by  the  captains  of  the 
teams,  and  a  feature  article  entitled  *The  Journal's  Woman  Re- 
porter Trains  with  the  Little  Boys  in  Blue." 86  But  despite  this 
furor  of  publicity,  football  was  a  sport  for  the  classes  rather  than 
the  masses.  It  largely  reflected  the  interests  of  the  college  world. 

It  was  dominated  by  the  eastern  universities.  In  one  season 
Yale  had  a  championship  team— with  such  great  players  as 
Heffelfinger  and  Hinkey— which  won  thirteen  games  and  piled 
up  a  season's  score  of  488  while  its  own  goal-line  was  uncrossed. 
But  colleges  throughout  the  country  were  now  taking  It  up  and 
playing  increasingly  better  football.  By  the  late  1890*5  the  Army- 
Navy  game  had  become  an  established  annual  feature;  among 
southern  colleges,  Virginia,  Vanderbilt,  Washington  and  Lee, 
had  well-known  teams;  in  the  Middle  West  there  was  already 
fierce  competition  among  such  colleges  as  Michigan,  Minnesota, 
Wisconsin,  Ohio  State,  and  the  new  University  of  Chicago; 
Leland  Stanford  stood  out  among  Pacific  Coast  teams.87  Even 
though  Walter  Camp  might  not  have  to  look  much  beyond  the 
Big  Three  for  his  famous  AU-Ameriean  teams,  there  were  signs 
that  the  East's  supremacy  would  soon  be  challenged.  Intercol- 
legiate football  had  become  a  nation-wide  sport 

Bitter  criticism  had  marked  its  progress.  The  attacks  made 
upon  football  overemphasis  in  the  1890s  make  comparable  com- 
ments in  the  1920's  and  1930*8  appear  mild  and  innocuous.  The 
preference  accorded  football-players  in  their  college  work,  undue 
absorption  in  the  game  through  long  training-seasons,  the  preva- 
lent spirit  of  winning  at  any  cost,  and  the  open  hiring  of  star 
players  awoke  a  resentment  which  echoed  throughout  the  coun- 
ty. The  Nation  was  foremost  in  these  early  onslaughts:  it  saw 

r/ze  Social  Side  of  Intercollegiate  Baseball 
Drawing  by  A,  I.  Keller.  Harper's  Weekly,  1896. 


all  the  worst  elements  of  American  character  reflected  in  the 
game.  "The  spirit  of  the  American  youth,  as  of  the  American 
man,  is  to  win,  to  'get  there/  by  fair  means  or  f oul,"  it  declared 
caustically,  "and  the  lack  of  moral  scruple  which  pervades  the 
business  world  meets  with  temptations  equally  irresistible  in  the 
miniature  contests  of  the  football  field." Ci  Although  far  more 
sympathetic,  the  special  sports  writer  of  Harper's  Weekly  was 
fuHy  as  outspoken  against  the  rising  tide  of  professionalism.  It 
was  prevalent  among  the  eastern  colleges,  but  even  worse  in 
other  parts  of  the  country.  Xo  one  could  have  any  conception, 
Caspar  Whitney  wrote  in  1S95,  "of  the  rottenness  of  the  whole 
structure  through  the  middle  and  far  West.  Men  are  bought  and 
sold  like  cattle  to  play  this  autumn  on  'strictly  amateur*  elevens,"  ** 

The  brutality  of  the  game  awoke  even  fiercer  attacks.  It  was 
the  day  of  flying  wedges,  tackle-back  tandems,  and  other  mass 
plays.  And  the  injuries  these  tactics  inevitably  caused  were 
supplemented  by  casualties  arising  from  the  frequent  slugging 
and  free-for-all  fights  which  the  referees  were  powerless  to 
control.  A  fair-minded  English  observer  was  horrified  at  the 
roughness  of  the  games.  And  his  impressions  of  it  were  amply 
confirmed  in  a  report  he  quoted  from  The  Nation  on  the  Har- 
vard-Yale game  of  1894.  It  declared  that  one-third  of  the  original 
combatants  had  had  to  be  carried  off  the  field.  "Brewer  was  so 
badly  injured  that  he  had  to  be  taken  off  crying  with  mortifica- 
tion. Wright,  captain  of  the  Yale  men,  jumped  on  him  with  both 
knees,  breaking  his  collar  bone.  Beard  was  next  turned  over  to 
the  doctors.  Hallowell  had  his  nose  broken.  Murphy  was  soon 
badly  injured  and  taken  off  the  field  in  a  stretcher  unconscious, 
with  concussion  of  the  brain.  Butterworth,  who  is  said  merely  to 
have  lost  an  eye,  soon  followed. . .  /* 40 

The  New  York  World  expressed  a  growing  conviction  that 
reform  was  absolutely  imperative  "if  ruffianism  and  brutality  and 
sneaking  cowardice  are  not  to  be  bred  into  our  youth  as  a  part 
of  their  training."41  Writing  in  Harpers  Weekly,  Tlieodore 
Roosevelt  (apostle  of  the  strenuous  life)  defended  the  game  as 


best  Be  could,  but  he  also  declared  in  forthright  terms  that 
roughness  and  professionalism  must  cease  if  football  was  to  be 

This  chorus  of  disapproval  compelled  action.  Under  the  lead- 
ership of  Walter  Camp,  efforts  were  made  to  bring  about  re- 
forms. The  block  game  was  done  away  with  through  the  adoption 
of  the  rule  requiring  surrender  of  the  ball  after  the  fourth  down 
unless  a  gain  of  ten  yards  had  been  made;  massed  rushes  were 
discouraged  by  providing  for  more  open  play;  and  referees  were 
empowered  to  deal  drastically  with  slugging  or  any  unnecessary 
roughness.  The  attempt  was  made  to  prevent  professionalism 
and  enforce  stricter  rules  of  eligibility.43  Nothing  could  be  done 
to  suppress  the  instinct  to  win  by  almost  any  means  (that  had 
become  a  part  of  football,  and  spectator  interest  already  de- 
manded a  fierce  and  bitter  struggle),  but  the  game  was  saved 
from  this  threat  of  suppression  for  the  further  triumphs  which 
awaited  it  in  the  twentieth  century. 

THE  SOCIAL  WOULD  as  represented  by  the  little  coterie  of  the 
very  wealthy  who  gave  elaborate  fancy-dress  balls,  had  their 
boxes  at  the  opera,  and  hunted  or  played  polo  at  the  new 
country  clubs  was  insignificant  in  numbers.  That  larger  group 
of  the  privileged  who  less  ostentatiously  supported  the  legitimate 
stage,  had  the  leisure  to  enjoy  such  sports  as  tennis  and  golf, 
and  made  up  the  college-bred  crowd  at  football  games  was  con- 
siderably larger,  but  still  it  did  not  bulk  very  large  in  a  total 
population  which  had  grown  by  the  1890*5  to  more  than  sixty- 
three  millions.  Nevertheless  this  world  of  society  in  the  broader 
sense  had  a  tremendous  influence  in  the  development  of  recrea- 
tion, for  it  set  the  standards  that  the  democracy  tried  to  follow 
as  best  it  could. 

Social  activities  received  immense  publicity  in  the  Gilded  Age. 
The  extravagant  balls  of  New  York  and  Chicago  millionaires, 
the  yacht-races  and  the  polo  matches,  the  coaching  parade  at 


Newport^  were  written  up  with  great  gusto  and  vivid  detail  in 
the  nation's  press.  All  the  world  knew  what  was  happening  in 
these  circles,  and  very  often  it  wanted  to  go  out  and  do  like- 
wise. The  middle  class  was  ambitious  to  take  up  every  activity 
on  which  society  had  set  the  stamp  of  fashionable  approval. 

While  tirfe  too  often  meant  that  a  premium  was  placed  on 
ostentation,  it  also  encouraged  the  healthy  growth  of  many  forms 
of  amusement.  It  can  at  least  be  said  that  society's  sponsorship 
of  the  theatre  and  opera,  of  sports  and  outdoor  activities,  partly 
counteracted  in  its  social  effects  the  example  it  set  in  luxury  and 



A  closing  decades  of  the  past  century.  It  was  more  typically 
American  than  the  city.  The  people  who  lived  and  worked  and 
played  in  its  familiar  environment  largely  made  up  the  middle 
class  which  carried  forward  the  traditions  and  ideals  of  democ- 
racy. The  quarterly  town  dances  of  the  Middle  West  were  at- 
tended by  banker  and  mill-hand,  lawyer  and  grocery  boy,  their 
wives  and  their  sweethearts.  Every  one  gathered  at  the  ball  park 
of  a  Saturday  afternoon  to  watch  the  local  team  in  action  and 
listened  that  evening  to  the  amateur  band  concert  in  the  public 
square.  The  town  might  have  its  "old  whist  crowd"  and  "young 
dancing  crowd,"  as  William  Allen  White  wrote  of  Kansas  in  the 
1890's,  its  "lodge  crowd,"  its  "church  social  crowd,"  and  its  "sur- 
prise party  crowd,"1  but  they  primarily  represented  people  of 
common  interests  getting  together.  There  was  already  a  right  and 
a  wrong  side  of  the  railroad  tracks,  but  social  distinctions  were 
not  as  rigid  as  they  were  to  become  in  a  later  day. 

This  neighborliness  made  for  a  pleasant  informality,  but  it 
also  imposed  its  restraints.  The  Victorian  era  was  passing,  but 
the  town  clung  to  old  ways.  The  fact  that  every  one  knew  what 
every  one  else  was  doing  enforced  a  certain  conventionality 
which  often  made  for  dullness.  There  had  been  no  expansion  in 
recreation  comparable  to  that  in  the  city.  Conservatism  waJs  im- 
plicit in  the  social  order,  and  any  departure— the  introduction  of 
the  two-step  at  the  Pastime  Club's  annual  assembly,  a  production 
of  Sappho  at  the  opera  house— led  to  a  storm  of  criticism. 

John  Quincy  Adams  would  have  known  just  what  to  expect  at 



a  small-town  party  in  this  period.  It  would  not  have  differed 
greatly  from  an  evening  at  Newburyport  a  century  earlier.  He 
would  have  known  how  to  play  most  of  tihe  games,  including 
I  Love  My  Love  with  an  A.  He  would  often  have  found  that  for- 
feits still  involved  that  "profanation  of  one  of  the  most  endearing 
expressions  of  love"  which  had  once  so  disturbed  him,  and  thor- 
oughly approved  a  contemporary  game  book  that  suggested 
substitute  forfeits  to  enable  the  players  to  avoid  the  "childish 
and  absurd  kissing  of  the  one  you  love  best."  And  the  perform- 
ance of  the  young  lady  of  the  house,  with  guitar  accompaniment 
should  there  be  no  piano,  might  well  have  been  as  trying  as  he 
had  found  it  in  the  1780s. 

The  church  still  played  a  dominant  rdle  in  setting  the  tone  of 
social  life.  Its  ban  on  drinking,  for  example,  had  the  support  of 
all  the  better  elements  in  the  town.  Lodge  night  or  the  firemen's 
ball  was  sometimes  a  lively  occasion,  but  even  where  the  com- 
munity was  not  thoroughly  dry  through  local  option,  alcoholic 
drinks  were  seldom  served  at  the  parties  of  either  the  surprise- 
party  crowd  or  the  young  dancing  crowd.  Nor  did  the  old  whist 
crowd  play  cards  for  money.  Church-going  folk  in  the  1890's— 
and  that  meant  almost  every  one—did  not  countenance  gambling 
in  even  its  mildest  forms.  The  Sabbath  was  generally  observed. 
Whatever  might  be  true  of  the  city,  it  was  not  yet  a  day  of 
recreation  for  the  town. 

To  MAEE  UP  for  the  restraints  it  imposed  upon  more  worldly 
amusements,  the  church  provided  its  own  entertainments.  Ladies* 
Aids,  Christian  Endeavors,  and  missionary  societies  engaged  in 
lively  competition  over  their  sociables,  fairs,  and  festivals.  The 
Congregational  ladies,  the  Methodist  ladies,  the  Baptist  ladies, 
were  rivals  in  both  good  works  and  good  times.  The  Sunday 
School  picnic  was  a  great  occasion.  The  church  had  always  been 
a  center  of  social  life  since  those  distant  colonial  days  when  New 
England's  farmers  drove  in  to  Sunday  sermons  and  midweek 


lectures,  gossiping  at  the  horse-sheds  after  service,  but  it  now 
recognized  a  social  obligation  in  sponsoring  community  recrea- 

At  the  church  supper,  which  became  so  universal  a  feature 
on  the  small-town  social  calendar,  the  entertainment  was  mild 
and  innocuous  by  urban  standards.  Lectures  and  talks,  readings 
and  poetic  recitations  by  the  more  gifted  members  of  the  con- 
gregation, instrumental  music  and  singing,  occasionally  tableaux 
or  charades,  made  up  the  usual  program.  Sometimes  lecture 
courses  were  definitely  arranged  to  meet  the  competition  of 
commercial  entertainment  The  First  Church  of  Chelsea,  Massa- 
chusetts, at  one  time  advertised  in  the  local  paper  "a  people's 
course"  of  ten  lectures  for  fifty  cents,  with  popular  speakers, 
readings,  music,  and  stereopticon  views.2 

At  the  fairs,  bazaars,  and  strawberry  festivals,  which  had  the 
further  goal  of  raising  money,  there  were  usually  grab-bags  or 
figh-ponds,  fortune-telling,  and  guessing  games.  Young  men  were 
invited  to  spend  ten  cents  to  see  something  they  would  hate, 
and  then  were  shown  a  mitten.  A  cake  would  be  sold  piece  by 
piece  until  some  lucky  purchaser  found  the  ring  that  had  been 
cooked  with  it  At  five  cents  a  cup  one  could  draw  lemonade  out 
of  a  miniature  well.  The  popularity  of  beauty  contests  (which 
had  come  down  from  colonial  fairs)  found  expression  in  a  vote 
for  the  prettiest  girl  at  the  festival,  the  blushing  winner  then 
being  called  upon  to  sell  kisses.  A  daring  innovation  was  a  game 
in  which  young  men  bid  for  partners  hidden  behind  a  curtain 
raised  just  high  enough  to  reveal  their  ankles. 

In  the  attack  that  Dr.  William  Bayard  Hale  made  upon  the 
extent  to  which  churches  were  entering  the  amusement  field,  he 
listed  an  exhibition  of  waxworks,  a  living-picture  show,  a  per- 
formance of  The  Mikado,  and  a  song  recital  in  which  the  Peak 
sisters  sang  the  ballad,  TDo  You  Know  the  Mouth  of  Man?"  One 
church  staged  the  Blackbird  Ballet,  Sacred  Female  Minstrels, 
the  performers  appearing  in  burnt  cork  and  bloomers.8 

These  more  exciting  ventures  into  the  realm  of  vaudeville  were 


admittedly  exceptional.  The  typical  church  entertainment  mir- 
rored the  spirit  of  an  age  in  which  the  small  town  faithfully 
observed  Victorian  concepts  of  propriety.  In  the  Eighty  Pleasant 
Evenings  issued  by  the  United  Society  of  Christian  Endeavor, 
there  was  no  suggestion  of  such  sprightly  entertainment.  Take 
the  popular  Patriotic  Social:  *  'Uncle  Sam*  or  'Columbia'  in  ap- 
propriate costume  may  receive  the  guests.  Flags  and  bunting 
should  decorate  the  walls,  together  with  portraits  of  famous 
Americans,  which  may  be  made  an  occasion  for  a  guessing 
contest  Have  a  'post-office,'  the  letters  consisting  of  extracts  from 
patriotic  speeches.  .  ,  .  The  following  program  has  been  rendered 
on  one  occasion: 

CHORUS.  'Star  Spangled  Banner.* 

RECITATION.  Independence  Bell/ 

SOLO.  "The  Dying  Soldier/  or  The  Soldier's  Farewell/ 

RECITATION.  *Old  Ironsides/ 

CHORUS.  'Red,  White  and  Blue/ 

A  list  of  historic  battles,  with  the  generals  commanding  them 
should  be  prepared  in  advance.  .  .  .  These  may  be  passed  and 
matched  to  arrange  partners  for  refreshments,  which  may  consist 
of  saltines,  cheese,  and  phosphate  of  wild  cherry."  * 

THERE  WERE  other  "jolly  affairs'*  besides  church  suppers  and 
Ladies'  Aid  sociables.  Trolley  parties,  progressive  tiddly-winks, 
taffy-pulls,  and  surprise  parties  were  popular.  "A  pleasant  sur- 
prise was  held  last  night  at  the  elegant  residence  of  Oliver  J.  .  .  . 
in  honor  of  the  fortieth  anniversary  of  the  birth  of  Mrs.  Ella 
reads  the  account  of  one  such  party  in  the  1890*s  as  recorded 
in  Middletown.  "Every  face  was  beaming  with  delight,  and 
happiness  flowed  from  heart  to  heart.  .  .  .  After  dinner  a  season 
of  song  and  prayer  was  had,  after  which  the  house  was  made  to 
ring  with  music.  ,  .  .  Mr.  McC.  .  .  .  favored  us  with  a  song,  *A 
Thousand  Years  My  Own  Columbia!'"5 


When  cards  were  introduced,  this  generation  usually  played, 
in  addition  to  whist,  such  games  as  euchre,  five  hundred, 
seven-up,  progressive  fifty-eight,  or  Sancho  Pedro.  And  there 
were  always  parlor  games  and  conundrums:  Dumb  Crambo,  Fiz 
Buzz,  Wall  Street  Brokers,  the  Feejee  Islanders  at  Home,  Princess 
Hugger  Mugger,  and  Hot  Cockles.  These  were  in  many  instances 
simply  new  variations  of  old  games,  and  such  favorites  as  Au- 
thors, Twenty  Questions,  and  Going  to  Jerusalem  were  still 
popular.6  For  over  a  century  successive  American  editions  of 
Hoyle  had  been  setting  the  established  rules  of  play. 

Music  not  only  played  an  important  part  in  these  evening 
entertainments  but  entered  into  the  whole  life  of  the  town.  In 
addition  to  local  bands,  there  were  many  choral  societies.  Young 
people  often  went  out  of  an  evening  to  serenade  one  another,  or 
gathered  at  the  home  of  one  of  their  number  for  **a  sing."  Every 
family  that  prided  itself  on  respectability  had  a  piano.  "There 
is  no  country,"  a  French  writer  reported,  "where  there  are  so 
many  pianos  and  players  on  them." 7  In  a  few  homes  an  odd 
contraption  known  as  a  talking-machine  might  be  found  (Edison 
had  put  it  on  the  market  about  1878),  but  with  its  tin-foil  cylin- 
der record,  turned  by  a  hand  crank,  it  was  still  a  rather  disap- 
pointing instrument  Generally  people  who  wanted  music  had 
to  produce  it  themselves.  Throaty  tenors  and  quavering  sopranos 
lustily  sang  the  songs  given  popular  currency  by  the  minstrel 
show,  the  musical-comedy  road  company,  and  the  circus.  The 
barber-shop  quartette  was  in  its  heyday;  the  young  lady  with  a 
passable  voice  needed  no  other  charms  to  be  the  success  of  the 

.  The  songs  were  sentimental,  and  old  songs  were  the  best  songs. 
The  Southern  melodies  introduced  by  the  minstrels— "Old  Black 
Joe,"  "Carry  Me  Back  to  Ole  Virginny,"  "The  Old  Folks  at  Home" 
—were  always  favorites.  At  every  party  there  was  some  one  to 
sing  such  Scotch  or  Irish  ballads  as  "John  Anderson,  My  Jo," 
"Comin'  Through  the  Rye,"  and  "Annie  Laurie."  Then  there 
were  "Juanita,"  "Oh,  My  Darling  Clementine,"  "Wait  Till  the 


Clouds  Roll  By,  Jennie/*  Tn  the  Gloaming,"  and  "Kiss  But  Never 

A  starry  night  for  a  ramble, 

In  the  flowery  dell, 

Through  the  bush  and  bramble, 

Kiss,  but  never  tell! 

Kiss,  but  never  tell  to  any- 

Telling  breaks  the  spell. 

Sometimes  the  theme  was  the  dangers  of  the  wicked  urban 

I've  come  to  the  great  city 

To  find  a  brother  dear, 

And  you  wouldn't  dare  insult  me,  Sir, 

If  Jack  were  only  here. 

Sidewalks  of  New  York,"  "On  the  Banks  of  the  Wabash," 
"Just  Tell  Them  That  You  Saw  Me,"  "O  Promise  Me,"  "The 
Boweiy,"  "My  Gal  Is  a  High-Born  Lady,"  were  all  of  the  1890's. 
It  was  in  this  prolific  decade  that  Charles  K.  Harris  wrote  "After 
the  Ball": 

Many  a  heart  is  aching 

If  you  could  read  them  all; 

Many  the  hopes  that  have  vanished 

After  the  ball. 

Reflecting  prevailing  standards  of  decorum  was  the  pretty 
lament,  "What  Could  the  Poor  Girl  Do,"  which  described  the 
dilemma  of  the  young  lady  endeavoring  to  keep  her  dress  off 
the  pavement  on  a  rainy  day: 

But  what  could  the  poor  girl  do? 

Boys,  what  could  the  poor  girl  do? 

She'd  a  pretty  little  shoe,  and  she  liked  to  show  it  too, 

So  I  couldn't  blame  the  girl,  could  you? 

They  were  sung,  these  songs  and  many  others,  as  they  never 
had  been  before  or  have  been  since.  Young  and  old  joined  in 


the  chorus.  Many  were  the  parties  that  broke  up  to  "Auld  Lang 
Syne"  or  "Good  Night,  Ladies"  8 

Dancing  was  probably  not  as  general  as  it  had  been  in  the 
late  eighteenth  century  or  as  it  was  to  become  in  the  early 
decades  of  the  twentieth.  But  various  clubs  and  associations  gave 
annual  balls;  businessmen  and  their  wives  attended  dancing- 
classes  which  usually  terminated  in  an  assembly  or  German.  The 
program  of  one  dance  held  in  Marion,  New  York,  during  this 
period  included  the  following  numbers:  lancers  (5),  waltz  (4), 
polka  (3),  military  march  (3),  quadrille  (2),  York  (2),  Port- 
land Fancy,  Caledonia,  and  Virginia  Reel,  It  opened  with  a 
grand  march  and  closed  with  "Home  Sweet  Home."9  In  more 
worldly  circles  the  two-step  was  coming  into  vogue.  The  music 
of  John  Philip  Sousa,  touring  the  country  with  his  famous  band, 
had  introduced  a  more  lively  rhythm  into  dancing.  The  Wash- 
ington Post/*  so  popular  that  in  other  countries  it  gave  its  name 
to  the  two-step,  was  everywhere  played  at  the  more  fashionable 

LODGE  NIGHT  had  become  a  nation-wide  institution.  Fraternal 
orders  were  nothing  new.  Freemasonry  had  crossed  the  Atlantic 
in  colonial  days  and  in  the  1820's  had  been  for  a  time  a  disturb- 
ing political  issue.  The  Independent  Order  of  Odd  Fellows  also 
dated  from  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  century,  and  among 
other  organizations  that  were  either  offshoots  of  the  Masons  and 
Odd  Fellows  or  had  been  newly  formed  somewhat  in  imitation 
of  them  were  the  Elks,  the  Knights  of  Pytibuas,  and  the  Ancient 
Order  of  United  Workmen.  But  after  1880  there  was  a  phenom- 
enal increase  in  the  number  and  membership  of  these  orders. 
No  less  than  five  hundred  were  founded  before  the  close  of  the 
century,  and  the  nation-wide  enrolment  suddenly  leaped  to  over 
six  millions,  something  like  forty  per  cent  of  the  male  popula- 
tion over  twenty-one.11 
The  country  fairly  bristled  with  temples,  camps,  clans,  castles, 


conclaves,  rulings,  hives,  and  tents.  Some  of  them  were  limited 
to  workers  in  certain  trades  and  occupations,  others  made  up 
their  membership  from  immigrant  groups,  and  there  were  many 
Negro  orders.  To  the  older  organizations  were  added  the  Ancient 
Arabic  Order  of  Nobles  of  the  Mystic  Shrine,  the  Independent 
Order  of  Good  Templars,  the  United  Order  of  Druids,  the  Tribes 
of  Ben  Hur,  the  Independent  Order  of  Gophers,  the  Prudent 
Patricians  of  Pompeii,  the  Mystic  Workers  of  the  World,  the 
Modern  Woodmen  of  America,  the  Concatenated  Order  of  Hoo- 
Hoo. . . .  Every  town  had  one  or  more  lodges,  their  membership 
embracing  every  element  in  its  society.  Initiation  ceremonies, 
the  induction  of  new  members,  carnivals,  and  other  fraternal 
social  functions  became  more  and  more  important.12 

Many  men  joined  the  orders  for  the  sake  of  the  sickness  and 
death  benefits  they  provided,  which  were  the  nominal  purpose 
of  their  being  formed;  others  took  out  membership  because  they 
felt  it  advisable  for  business  or  to  make  useful  social  contacts. 
But  such  prosaic  reasons  could  not  possibly  explain  the  amazing 
stampede  to  become  a  Mason  or  an  Odd  Fellow,  an  Elk  or  a 
Gopher,  in  the  last  quarter  of  the  nineteenth  century.  It  was 
the  urge  to  be  accepted  as  one  of  the  crowd— half  a  century 
earlier  Alexis  de  Tocqueville  had  diagnosed  America  as  a  nation 
of  joiners— and  to  be  able  to  slip  away  for  a  time  from  one's 
humdrum  daily  routine  into  a  mysterious  world  of  pageantry 
and  make-believe. 

The  elaborate  ceremony  and  ritual  of  the  lodge,  with  its  secret 
grips  and  passwords;  the  colorful  regalia  of  the  officers;  the 
grandiloquent  titles  and  forms  of  address,  provided  such  a  strik- 
ing contrast  to  workshop  or  factory,  to  the  dull  level  of  so  much 
home  life,  that  their  appeal  could  hardly  be  withstood.  There 
were  so  few  other  ways  to  forget  the  cares  of  trade  or  business- 
no  movies  or  radio  to  create  an  even  more  fantastic  land  of 
never-never.  Any  one  might  find  himself  a  Most  Illustrious  Grand 
Potentate,  Supreme  Kahalijah,  or  Most  Worthy  and  Illustrious 
Imperial  Prince  on  lodge  night  In  gorgeous  robes  of  state,  jew- 


eled  collars,  imposing  helmets  or  high-crowned  fezzes;  carrying 
the  swords,  lances,  and  axes  that  constituted  the  impressive 
symbols  of  their  office,  butchers  and  bakers  and  candlestick 
makers  strutted  for  a  brief  hour  before  a  worshiping  audience  of 
Knights  and  Nobles,  Nomads  and  Rams— sometimes  Daughters 
of  Isis  or  Pythian  Sisters— in  all  the  magnificence  of  the  bor- 
rowed plumes  of  mystic  imagery.  The  lodges  had  become  a  na- 
tional vice,  a  contemporary  critic  wrote  in  the  Atlantic  Monthly; 
a  contributor  to  the  Century  found  them  the  great  American 

Many  other  organizations  were  witness  to  the  national  love 
for  joining  something.  One  foreign  visitor,  touring  the  country 
in  1892,  was  amazed  at  the  number  and  variety  of  associations 
"founded  simply  to  make  it  easier  to  procure  some  pleasure." 14 
But  most  of  them  had  at  least  originally  a  practical  purpose. 
Militia  companies  still  held  annual  musters,  and  though  they^ 
may  not  have  been  as  exciting  occasions  as  the  old  colonial 
training  days,  the  whole  town  would  turn  out  to  watch  the 
drills  and  parades,  listen  to  the  band  music,  and  help  the  militia- 
men celebrate.  More  colorful  were  the  musters  and  carnivals 
staged  by  the  local  volunteer  firemen.  Sometimes  companies  from 
the  neighboring  towns  of  half  a  state  would  gather,  resplendent 
in  red  shirts  and  shiny  helmets,  for  fierce  contests  with  the  old 
hand-pumping  engines.  The  company  that  sent  a  stream  of  water 
farthest  won  a  championship  as  important  as  that  of  the  local 
baseball  league.  There  were  also  local  posts  of  the  G.A.R.,  work- 
ingmen's  clubs,  sports  clubs,  and  businessmen's  associations 
pointing  the  way  to  Rotary  and  Kiwanis.  The  town  was  honey- 
combed with  such  organizations,  and  everywhere  the  general 
pattern  of  their  activities  was  much  the  same. 

Women  were  not  left  out  of  this  movement  to  organize,  They 
had  auxiliaries  formed  on  the  lines  of  the  men's  fraternal  orders- 
Daughters  of  Rebekah,  Pythian  Sisters,  Daughters  of  Isis;  asso- 
ciations such  as  the  Women's  Relief  Corp  and  Ladies*  Aid;  and 
a  wide  array  of  social  dubs  which  multiplied  in  this  period  as 

A  Chautauqua  Tent 
Courtesy  of  H.  J.  Thornton. 

Side  of 

FeichtTs  troupe  of 

Tyrolese    yodelers. 

Courtesy  of  H.   J. 



never  before.  There  were  Shakespeare  and  Beethoven  Circles, 
Noon-Day  Rest  Clubs,  Old  Maids*  Socials,  and  Ladies*  High 
Jinks,  to  a  total,  before  the  century  closed,  which  is  only  par- 
tially indicated  by  the  twelve  hundred  associations  formally 
banded  together  in  the  General  Federation  of  Women's  Clubs.15 

"We  have  art  clubs,  book  clubs,  dramatic  clubs,  pottery  clubs," 
a  contemporary  wrote.  "We  have  sewing  circles,  philanthropic 
associations,  scientific,  literary,  religious,  athletic,  musical  and 
decorative  art  societies/*16  A  visiting  Frenchwoman  declared 
that  the  absence  of  men  would  make  her  compatriots  feel  "as 
if  they  were  eating  bread  without  butter.**17  The  American 
women  appeared  to  get  along  very  well  under  these  distressing 

These  clubs  represented  a  conscious  effort  to  fill  the  increasing 
leisure  that  the  machine  age  was  making  available  to  the  middle- 
class  housewife.  Her  ordinary  work  was  greatly  cut  down  by 
factory  manufacture  of  things  formerly  made  in  the  home  and 
by  the  introduction  of  innumerable  labor-saving  devices.  "House- 
keeping is  getting  to  be  ready-made,  as  well  as  clothing,*'  one 
magazine  writer  stated  in  1887.18  While  the  men  generally  had 
as  long  hours  of  work  as  they  had  had  before,  their  wives  found 
themselves  with  free  afternoons  which  they  could  devote  to 
outside  activities.  A  zealous  pursuit  of  culture,  rather  than 
pleasure,  was  the  primary  goal  of  the  woman's  club,  but  the 
lectures,  reading  of  members*  papers,  and  discussions  over  the 
tea-table  fell  within  that  vague  territory  where  the  boundaries 
between  instruction  and  recreation  can  hardly  be  defined. 

AN  ENTIRELY  different  phase  of  recreational  life  centered  about 
the  local  opera  house.  Here  traveling  lecturers,  road  companies, 
and  variety  shows  periodically  appeared  to  give  the  townspeople 
their  one  taste  of  urban  entertainment.  In  quick  succession  they 
might  welcome  Russell  H.  Conway  giving  his  famed  talk  on 
"Acres  of  Diamonds'*  (this  popular  version  of  the  idea  that 


there  are  riches  in  your  own  back  yard  was  given  over  five 
thousand  times);  a  Merry  Maidens  burlesque  show;  Robert 
Mantell  in  a  repertoire  of  Shakespearean  plays;  an  Uncle  Tom's 
Cabin  company;  and  a  traveling  combination  presenting  the 
latest  Broadway  hit19  Although  the  opera  house  might  attempt 
to  book  "first  class  attractions  only/*  it  was  in  much  the  same 
position  as  the  mid-century  theatre.  Its  productions  had  to  reach 
all  members  of  the  community.  If  serious  drama  and  vaudeville 
acts  were  not  combined  in  one  performance,  as  they  so  often 
had  been  in  the  1850*s,  popular  demand  caused  them  to  alter- 
nate almost  weekly. 

The  annual  session  of  Chautauqua  was  for  many  a  small  town 
the  grand  climax  of  this  entertainment  It  was  sometimes  the 
sole  occasion  when  outside  talent  mounted  the  platform  to  offer 
a  glimpse  of  what  was  happening  in  the  larger  world.  This 
institution— for  "the  Chautauqua/*  had  a  nation-wide  scope- 
had  developed  out  of  a  camp-meeting  course  for  Sunday-School 
teachers  started  in  1874.  As  it  grew  to  embrace  the  whole  field  of 
adult  education,  other  Chautauquas  were  established  throughout 
the  country,  the  summer  courses  were  supplemented  by  winter 
lecture  series,  and  reading  groups  enrolled  in  the  Literary  and 
Scientific  Circle.  In  the  1890*s  there  were  some  seventy  Chau- 
tauquas. When  the  twentieth  century  developed  its  far-flung 
system  of  chain  organizations,  totaling  some  ten  thousand  in 
1919,  the  nation-wide  audience  slowly  grew  to  an  estimated 
forty  million.20 

Chautauqua  was  cultural  and  educational.  Its  lectures,  how- 
ever, were  always  supplemented  by  an  entertainment  program. 
When  a  meeting  was  held,  especially  in  the  small  towns  of  the 
Middle  West,  it  would  be  attended  by  hundreds  of  neighboring 
farmers  as  well  as  townspeople.  They  would  camp  on  grounds 
made  available  near  the  auditorium  or  lecture  tents,  and  for  a 
solid  week  enjoy  an  astounding  succession  of  learned  and  inspira- 
tional talks  interlarded  with  the  performances  of  xylophone  or- 
chestras, Swiss  yodelers,  jugglers  and  magicians,  college-girl 

Who's  Who  in  Cbautauqua  1920 

First  Day 


The  New  York  Glee  Club 

Great  male  quartet  direct  from  remarkable  record  in 
eastern  titles.  Andres  Merkel,  1st  tenor,  George  D. 
Dewey,  2nd  tenor,  D.  Ward  Steady,  baritone,  and  Win, 
J.  Williams,  basso.  Four  soloists  with  a  most  unusual 
ensemble;  Song-  harmony  by  music's  most  popular 
voice  combination. 


Lou  J.  BeancLamp  "Taking  tie  Sonny  Side" 

Known  as  "The  Laughing  Philosopher."  Said  to 
cause  more  laughter  in  one  evening  than  any  man  on 
the  platform.  Traveled  more  than  million  mifc-y  m  old 
world  and  the  new.  Nineteen  ocean  trips.  Investi- 
gated the  lives  of  the  underworld  in  America's  large 
cities,  writing  for  the  press.  His  books  selling  through 
two  and  three  editions,  and  translated  into  foreign 
tongues.  Poems  on  child-life  part  of  the  folk  lore  of 
the  land. 

Germanie  Mallebay  Company 

Headed  by  Mile.  Mallebay,  noted  opera  singer  from 
Paris,  and  favorite  pupil  of  M.  Hettich  of  the  National 
Conservatory.  Three  other  artists,  Miss  Helen  Carney, 
violinist,  Clyde  Matson,  tenor,  and  Miss  Margaret 
Everett,  pianist  and  accompanist  One  of  the  strongest 
musical  companies  on  the  American  concert  stage. 

Second  Day 

Frank  Dixon 
"The  Indispensable  Took  of  Democracy" 

A  keen,  constructive  satirist.  One  of  America's  fore- 
most economists,  who  for  17  years  has  used  platform 
to  discuss  country's  vital  problems.  One  of  the  "plat- 
form giants'1  of  tbis-day.  Masterful,  scholarly,  brilliant, 
eloquent.  Loaded  with  burning  facts  about  democracy, 
which  the  people  want  to  know. 

Third  Day 


Elwood  T.  Bailey 
"The  Call  of  the  Hoar" 

An  intensely  human  speaker,  painter  of  graphic  word     *It  Pays  to  Advertise.' 
pictures,  inspirer  to  action.    Close  student  of  men  and     "  • 

situations.  Was  with  the  "Devil  Dog"  Marines  at 
Chateau  Thierry,  wounded  and  gassed.  Fired  with  the 
spirit  of  Americanism,  brotherhood  and  loyalty. 

"The  Elixir  of  Yortk" 

The  great  American  farce  comedy  with  New  York 
cast    Concerning  the  discovery  of  a  substance  sup- 
posed to  transform  old  age  into  youth.    Funnier  than 
Concocted  ; ' 

I  along  the  lines  of 

the  greatest  number  of  laughs.  The  best  joy-tonic, 
world-brightener,  delicious,  sparkling  cure  for  the  blues 
on  the  market.  Runs  over  with  witty  lines,  ludicrous 
situations,  funny  characters. 


Dixie  Giris 

Five  talented,  winsome  girls  from  below  the  Mason- 
Dixon  line.  Dispensing  the  sunshine  and  charm  of 
the  Southland,  telling  stories  of  their  own  native  south- 
ern folk,  and  singing  and  playing  the  rich,  southern 

Fourth  Day 

Robert  Bowman 

Through  years  of  study,  observation,  and  experience, 
achieved  the  front  rank  among  character  impersonators. 
By  the  aid  of  stage  "make-up*  brings  the  world's  most 
interesting  characters  to  the  chautauqua  platform. 
"The  Immortal  Lincoln,"  "Shylock,"  "Our  Imported 
Americans,"  and  "Characters  From  Life  and  Litera- 
ture," some  of  the  high  spots  in  his  humor  and  pathos 


Fifth  Day 

"County  Fair" 
"Hey,  Skinnay!    Cm  On  Over!" 

Lots,  'n  lots,  rn  lots  of  fun!  Big  County  Fair 
n'eveiythingf  Balloon  Man,  Nigger  Baby  Rack,  Prize 
Animals.  Powerful  Katrinka,  Sword  Swallower,  Fire 
Eater  and  Fortune  Teller,— 'n  whole  shootin*  match! 
Big  parade  and  stunt  program  at  chantauqua. 

Prof.  Abel  Cantu  "Mexico  Todcc? 

Of  a  fine,  Mexican  family,  educated  in  the  colleges  of 
his  own  land,  followed  by  graduate  work  in  American 

universities.  Professor  at  University  of  Wisconsin, 
and  Crane  Technical  High  School  of  Chicago.  Authori- 
tative information  on  Mexico  at  a  time  when  the  subject 
of  intervention  is  momentous. 


Landis  Singing  Orchestra 

Form  a  six-piece  orchestra,  rendering  gems  from  the 
symphony  classics  and  syncopated  rag-time  melodies, 
a  male  quartet  harmonizing  on  the  tunes  the  people 
love  to  hear,  and  a  vocal,  mixed  sextet,  presenting 
songologues  and  "pep"  stunts  new  and  noveL 

Junior  Chautauqua  9:00  a.m.      Afternoon  Program  2:30  p.m.      Evening  Program  8:00  p.  m. 

Program  of  a  Typical  Chautauqua  Week 
The  Redpath-Vawter  System  offerings  at  Mflford,  Iowa,  June  2-6,  1920. 


octettes,  boy  whistlers,  dramatic  monologists,  and  jubilee  singers. 
Sports  also  were  encouraged  in  the  afternoon,  with  croquet  for 
the  ladies  and  baseball  for  the  men.  "The  Chautauqua,"  declared 
one  of  its  early  speakers,  "is  a  cross  between  a  camp  meeting 
and  a  country  fair." 21 

The  atmosphere  was  highly  moral.  There  could  be  no  drinking 
or  smoking;  the  Sabbath  was  rigidly  observed.  A  Methodist 
Dining  Tent  or  Christian  Endeavor  Ice  Cream  Tent  supplied 
all  refreshments.  Since  Chautauqua  derived  its  chief  support 
from  the  churches  and  ladies'-aid  societies,  the  emphasis  was 
always  placed  on  the  importance  of  "the  Work."  As  entertain- 
ment inevitably  proved  the  more  potent  drawing-card,  it  had  to 
be  given  all  possible  protective  coloring.  The  prominent  singer 
lectured"  on  "The  Road  to  Mandalay";  the  monologist  "gave  a 
reading"  rather  than  a  dramatic  performance.  When  in  Chau- 
tauqua^ later  days  a  musical  company  staged  Carmen,  it  was 
considered  necessary  to  have  the  heroine  work  in  a  dairy  rather 
than  in  a  cigarette  factory.22 

To  meet  the  town's  insistent  demand  for  lectures,  the  Redpath 
Lyceum  Bureau  had  for  long  been  sending  out  the  most  prom- 
inent speakers— P.  T.  Barnum  and  Horace  Greeley,  Wendell 
Phillips  and  Henry  Ward  Beecher,  Mark  Twain,  Bill  Nye  and 
James  Whitcomb  Riley,  Presidents  Grant,  Hayes,  Garfield,  and 
McKfnley,  William  Jennings  Bryan,  Viscount  Bryce. . .  ,23  Here 
was  a  strong  force,  one  of  the  most  powerful  in  operation  in  the 
1890's,  to  broaden  the  lives  of  the  middle  class.  Chautauqua  was 
a  typically  American  institution  whose  cultural  and  recreational 
aspects  were  subtly  merged  in  an  age  which  did  not  yet  know 
the  radio. 

The  more  openly  avowed  entertainment  presented  at  the 
opera  house  by  the  traveling  road  companies,  which  between 
1880  and  1900  (as  listed  by  the  New  Yorfc  Dramatic  Mirror) 
increased  from  some  forty-odd  to  over  five  hundred,24  included 
almost  everything  that  was  being  staged  at  city  theatres.  Among 
the  performances  scheduled  for  the  small  towns  bf  Indiana  dur- 


ing  a  week  in  December,  1898,  were  a  repertoire  of  Shake- 
spearean plays,  several  comedies  from  Broadway,  a  minstrel 
show,  a  musical  comedy,  and  several  melodramas  and  variety 
shows.  The  Boston  Lyric  Opera  Company  was  playing  at  the 
Grand  Opera  House  in  Marion,  and  the  John  L.  Sullivan  Com- 
pany was  booked  at  Kokomo.  Logansport  was  enjoying  Black 
Patti's  Troubadours,  and  Elkhart  a  concert  series  by  Sousa*s 
Band.  Eldon's  Comedians  (Pearl  White  was  once  a  member  of 
this  troupe)  staged  at  Dunkirk  three  plays  representing  the  most 
distinctive  phases  of  American  life— The  Slums  of  Greater  New 
York,  A  Country  Sweetheart,  and  The  Pride  of  the  West.  At  the 
Grand  Opera  House  in  Anderson  there  was  a  revival  of  an  old 
favorite  by  Jerome's  Black  Crook  Extravaganza  Company.25 

At  any  time  during  the  1890's  at  least  one  opera  house  some- 
where in  the  land  was  producing  East  Lynne;  Denman  Thomp- 
son was  always  on  the  road  in  The  Old  Homestead  (it  earned 
over  $3,000,000);  The  Two  Orphans  had  already  had  more 
than  twenty-five  hundred  performances;  and  Joseph  Jefferson, 
beloved  from  coast  to  coast,  had  become  a  part  of  American 
folklore  in  the  familiar  r61e  of  Rip  Van  Winkle. 

The  smaller  towns  seldom  had  very  much  choice  as  to  what 
they  might  see.  "Doubtless  there  are  worse  theatrical  companies 
than  those  which  visit  Kansas,**  William  Allen  White  wrote  in 
the  Atlantic  Monthly  in  1897,  "but  no  one  has  ever  described 
them/*26  In  many  cases  they  were  poorer  than  the  old  stock 
companies  they  had  so  completely  displaced.  There  were  not 
enough  actors  to  meet  the  growing  demand  of  the  local  opera 
houses,  and  performances  were  staged  that  would  have  em- 
barrassed the  hardy  troupers  who  barn-stormed  through  the 
Mississippi  Valley  in  pioneer  days.  Their  quality  would  hardly 
have  been  known  from  the  advance  notices.  Every  variety  or 
minstrel  show  promised  something  bigger  and  better  than  the 
town  had  ever  seen.  The  poorest  of  the  little  comedy  troupes, 
rushing  through  the  countryside  playing  one-night  stands  at 
villages  which  were  hardly  on  the  map,  were  billed  as  star  at- 


tractions  straight  from  Broadway.  One  may  follow  their  blazing 
path— the  Bootless  Baby  Company,  the  Hands  Across  the  Sea 
Company,  the  She,  Him,  Her  Comedy  Company— as  they  arrived 
in  town  of  a  late  afternoon,  hopefully  staged  their  show,  and 
either  that  very  night  or  early  the  next  morning  were  again  on 
their  way.  During  a  single  fortnight  in  December,  1889,  one 
such  company  played  fourteen  stands  from  Creston,  Iowa,  to 
Adrian,  Michigan;  another  put  on  an  equal  number  of  perform- 
ances in  a  string  of  eastern  towns  from  Herkimer,  New  York, 
to  Keene,  New  Hampshire.27 

Marie  Dressier  has  recalled  in  her  reminiscences  many  of  the 
trials  and  tribulations  these  second-rate  companies  experienced 
on  the  road.  She  played  in  cheap  dramatic  stock  for  a  weekly 
wage  of  $6.00,  and,  as  in  an  earlier  day,  the  cast  often  did  not 
know  their  lines  and  ad-libbing  was  a  necessary  art.  At  some 
of  their  brief  stands  the  excitement  of  their  arrival  brought  out 
welcoming  crowds,  and  after  the  performance  the  stage  door 
would  be  blocked  with  local  admirers.  In  other  places  their 
reception  would  be  so  frigid  that  they  were  forced  to  play  to 
almost  empty  houses  and  perhaps  would  be  left  completely 
stranded.  A  lingering  prejudice  against  everything  connected 
with  the  theatre  led  many  a  New  England  boarding-house  to 
refuse  to  take  in  actors  or  actresses.  They  were  ostracized  in  a 
world  of  railroad  trains,  second-rate  rooming-houses,  and  cheap 

The  musical  shows  had  the  most  difficult  time.  For  all  their 
glowing  advertisements— "breezy  dialogue,  gorgeous  stage  set- 
tings, dazzling  dancing,  spirited  repartee,  superb  music,  opulent 
costumes"— their  settings  were  often  woefully  inadequate,  their 
costumes  old  and  dingy,  and  their  performances  uninspired  and 
shabby.  It  was  a  practice  to  recruit  new  members  of  the  cast 
while  on  the  road.  Marie  Dressier  tells  of  the  surprising  church 
attendance  of  the  producers,  watching  the  choir  for  possible  ad- 
ditions to  their  show's  chorus. 

The  Tommers  were  still  playing  America's  favorite  drama  in 


village  and  hamlet.  Their  performances,  heralded  by  street 
parades,  might  be  staged  at  either  the  local  opera  house  or  under 
canvas.  To  make  up  for  possible  deficiencies  in  the  cast,  and  also 
for  the  lack  of  novelty  in  the  old  play,  some  announced  two 
Uncle  Toms,  two  Simon  Legrees,  two  Little  Evas.  One  company 
added  prize-fighters  to  its  cast,  having  the  colored  pugilist  Peter 
Jackson  spar  a  few  rounds  with  Joe  Choynski.29  These  expedients 
were  not  always  successful.  After  one  performance  a  Minnesota 
newspaper  reported  laconically:  "Thompson's  Uncle  Tom's 
Cabin  Company  appeared  at  the  opera  house  last  night.  The  dogs 
were  poorly  supported."  30 

Despite  the  large  number  of  traveling  combinations,  there  was 
another  basic  disparity  in  the  theatrical  entertainments  of  town 
and  city  entirely  apart  from  the  general  standards  of  acting. 
This  was  the  relative  infrequency  of  performances  at  the  opera 
house  in  contrast  to  the  wide  choice  of  nightly  entertainment 
offered  by  the  dozen  or  more  theatres  and  vaudeville  houses  in 
the  larger  cities.31  The  small  town  had  more  in  the  way  of 
commercial  amusements  than  ever  before,  but  this  was  often 
not  more  than  a  single  show  in  the  week.  And  sometimes  the 
opera  house  would  be  darkened  for  months  on  end. 

OUTDOOR  ACTIVITIES  represented  a  more  important  phase  of 
recreation.  Lawns,  back  yards,  and  playing-fields,  so  totally 
lacking  in  the  cities,  opened  the  way  to  active  participation  in 
the  new  sports  and  games  that  had  been  introduced  by  society. 
In  every  part  of  the  United  States,  on  Saturday  afternoons  and 
holidays,  even  in  some  localities  on  Sundays,  there  were  in 
progress  baseball  matches  among  teams  representing  the  town, 
the  factory,  the  athletic  club,  the  high  school,  or  the  Y.M.C.A. 
This  sport  was  a  distinctive  feature  of  New  England  town  life; 
it  had  invaded  the  rural  areas  of  the  South.  In  the  newspaper 
of  any  western  town  one  may  read  of  local  games.  Under  such 
names  as  the  Striped  Stockings  or  Blue  Belts,  teams  in  Kansas 


and  Nebraska  carried  on  a  lively  feud,  tike  Wichita  Eagle  stating 
as  early  as  1873  that  baseball  (closely  pressed  by  croquet,  mum- 
ble peg,  and  keno)  was  the  community's  favorite  game.32 

A  more  interesting  development  was  the  rapidly  growing 
popularity  of  the  new  indoor  winter  sport  of  basketball.  It  has  a 
unique  status.  It  is  the  only  popular  American  game  that  is 
not  derived  from  some  sport  whose  origins  may  be  clearly  traced 
to  England.  Baseball  and  football  have  been  thoroughly  Amer- 
icanized by  a  slow  process  of  evolution,  but  basketball  sprang 
fully  developed  on  a  world  which  little  realized  that  in  time  it 
was  to  be  played  by  more  persons  (including  boys  and  girls)  and 
draw  larger  numbers  of  spectators  than  any  other  sport— not 
excepting  either  professional  baseball  or  intercollegiate  football. 

Working  at  the  Y.M.C.A.  training  school  in  Springfield,  Massa- 
chusetts, in  1891,  James  A.  Naismith  became  impressed  with  the 
very  real  need  for  an  indoor  game  that  might  serve  during  the 
winter  as  a  practical  substitute  for  baseball  and  football.  It  had 
to  be  active  and  highly  competitive,  but  he  hoped  to  avoid  the 
roughness  which  in  these  years  was  bringing  football  into  such 
disrepute.  Basketball,  the  result  of  his  thinking  along  these  lines, 
caught  on  immediately.  Its  sponsorship  by  the  Y.M.C.A.  pro- 
vided the  means  to  carry  it  throughout  the  country— and  also  to 
other  parts  of  the  world.  It  was  taken  up  almost  at  once  by  col- 
leges, high  schools,  and  athletic  clubs.33 

So  popular  did  it  become  that,  as  in  the  case  of  both  baseball 
and  football,  the  problem  of  professionalism  soon  arose.  Basket- 
ball was  threatened  by  all  the  evils  of  gambling  and  fixed 
games.34  Strict  enforcement  of  amateur  rules,  however,  was  more 
feasible  in  the  case  of  basketball  than  in  that  of  either  baseball 
or  football  because  it  was  so  widely  played  by  Y.M.C.A.  and 
school  teams.  It  was  for  many  years  kept  on  a  non-professional 
basis,  and  so  popular  did  it  prove  among  boys  that  a  modified 
form  of  it  was  devised  for  girls. 

Among  other  games,  the  craze  for  croquet,  which  at  one  time 
had  been  so  universal  that  manufacturers  could  not  keep  up 


with  the  demand  for  sets,  had  somewhat  subsided.  It  remained 
a  popular  pastime,  but  it  no  longer  aroused  the  nation-wide 
excitement  of  the  days  when  for  the  first  time  it  allowed  boys 
and  girls,  men  and  women,  to  enjoy  an  outdoor  game  together. 
They  were  now  doing  too  many  things  in  company  for  croquet  to 
have  its  original  novelty.  Interest  in  tennis  was  increasing,  but  at 
a  relatively  slow  rate.  It  was  still  largely  a  sport  for  society.  The 
young  college  graduates  of  the  1890*s  were  bringing  it  back  with 
them  to  the  home  town,  but  it  had  to  overcome  the  prejudice 
that  it  was  rather  a  sissy  game  which  no  good  baseball  player 
would  be  seen  playing. 

In  The  Gentleman  from  Indiana  Booth  Tarldngton  describes 
the  sensation  caused  by  his  hero  when  he  appeared  in  tennis 
flannels.  Dim  memories  were  stirred  in  the  minds  of  the  store- 
keeping  postmaster  and  his  sister  over  "that  there  long-tennis 
box  we  bought  and  put  in  the  window,  and  the  country  people 
thought  it  was  a  seining  outfit." 

"It  was  a  game,  the  catalogue  said/  observed  Miss  Selina. 

*  It  was  a  mighty  pore  investment,*  the  postman  answered." 35 

The  popularity  of  roller-skating  had  also  waned.  Boys  and 
girls  still  skated  happily  on  the  period's  wooden  sidewalks,  but 
adult  skating  no  longer  aroused  the  enthusiasm  of  the  1880*s. 
The  cities  had  their  rinks,  but  in  many  a  provincial  town  they 
had  been  converted  to  other  uses.  A.  G.  Spalding  did  not  find  it 
necessary  to  issue  another  guide,  and  the  sale  of  skates  fell  off 

The  most  universal  sport  of  city,  town,  and  country  was  bicy- 
cling. We  have  seen  how  it  first  won  popular  favor,  but  the 
golden  age  of  the  wheel  was  the  1890's.  The  invention  of  the 
safety  bicycle,  equipped  with  pneumatic  tires,  and  of  the  drop- 
frame  for  women  riders  had  made  it  available  for  every  one. 
There  were  something  like  a  million  bicycles  in  the  country  in 
1893,  and  soon  production  was  running  each  year  as  high  as 
this  nation-wide  total.30  Every  sizable  community  had  its  club, 


associated  with  the  League  of  American  Wheelmen,  and  rising 
armies  of  riders  sallied  forth  every  week-end.  One  commentator 
found  cycling  rapidly  becoming  "more  popular  than  all  other 
out-of-door  recreations  combined";87  another  declared  it  to  be  a 
final  answer  to  those  captious  critics  who  "used  to  call  us  money- 
grubbers,  and  talk  about  our  excessive  lust  for  the  almighty 

It  met  opposition  in  some  quarters.  Its  effect  on  other  activi- 
ties and  occupations  was  occasionally  viewed  with  alarm.  A 
writer  in  The  Forum  declared  that  the  piano  trade  had  been 
cut  in  half,  and  that  of  the  livery-stable  reduced  to  little  more 
than  a  third,  because  of  the  competition  of  the  bicycle.  Even 
the  barbers  suffered  because  the  young  man  took  his  girl  out 
bicycling  instead  of  to  the  theatre,  and  therefore  did  not  need 
to  get  a  shave!  Bicycling  led  to  wholesale  violation  of  the  Sab- 
bath. The  churches  were  empty  while  long  lines  of  Sunday 
cyclists  could  be  seen  rolling  down  hill  "to  a  place  where  there 
is  no  mud  on  the  streets  because  of  its  high  temperature/*89 
And  while  bicycling  for  women  was  generally  encouraged,  the 
Women's  Rescue  League,  in  Washington,  issued  a  fierce  blast 
against  it  on  both  physical  and  moral  grounds.  It  declared  that 
within  ten  years  all  female  cyclists  would  be  invalids,  and  in 
the  meantime  the  temptations  of  the  road  were  daily  swelling 
the  army  of  outcast  women,40 

Nevertheless,  cycling  remained  so  popular  that  no  question 
of  the  day  agitated  the  monthly  journals  more  seriously  than 
bicycle  fashions  for  women.  What  could  be  done  about  the 
amply-skirted?  "Her  windage  is  multiplied,  and  so  is  the  exertion 
she  needs  to  bring  to  bear  on  her  riding,"  sadly  lamented  one 
handbook.  "Added  to  that,  her  mind  is  continually  on  the  strain 
that  her  skirt  may  be  preserved  in  a  position  of  seemliness.^ 41 
Godey's  Lady's  Book  as  usual  came  to  the  rescue.  It  advocated  a 
kilted  skirt  trimmed  with  fancy  brandenburgs,  jacket  bodice  and 
vest,  doth  cap  and  leggings.  Other  arbiters  of  fashion  favored 
divided  skirts  and  top-boots;  there  were  suggestions  that  even 


bloomers  ("bifurcated  garments  extending  from  the  waist  to 
knee")  might  be  worn  without  offense  to  female  dignity  and 
modesty.  Victorian  scruples  were  giving  way  before  the  demand 
for  greater  freedom  in  costume.  Folded  screens  to  protect  the 
feet  and  ankles  from  view  when  mounting  or  riding  were  ad- 
vertised in  the  Scientific  American,  but  the  lady  cyclist  seldom 
bothered  with  them.42  "A  few  years  ago,"  one  writer  commented, 
"no  woman  would  dare  venture  on  the  street  with  a  skirt  that 
stopped  above  her  ankles,  and  leggings  that  reached  obviously  to 
her  knees. . . .  [The  bicycle]  has  given  to  all  American  woman- 
kind the  liberty  of  dress  for  which  the  reformers  have  been 
sighing  for  generations/' 43  It  was  a  development,  this  recognition 
that  women  too  had  legs,  of  very  real  significance. 

Bicycling  was  exercise  and  sport.  It  was  the  rediscovery  of  the 
outdoors.  It  was  romance.  What  popular  song  of  the  1890's  is 
better  remembered  than  "Daisy  Bell": 

. . .  youTl  look  sweet, 

Upon  the  seat 

Of  a  bicycle  built  for  two. 

Businessmen,  housewives,  working  people,  youths  and  maidens, 
all  took  to  the  wheel. 

The  League  of  American  Wheelmen  had  its  consuls  every- 
where to  further  the  interests  of  cyclists.  It  gave  the  stamp  of 
official  approval  to  League  hotels  and  promoted  the  good-roads 
movement.  With  mass  production  came  lower  prices  and  still 
further  popularity.  The  bicycle  had  more  than  fulfilled  its  early 
promise.  The  countryside  was  transformed  under  its  influence. 
The  editor  of  Scribner's  asked  in  1896  whether  anything  had 
happened  since  the  building  of  the  first  locomotive  to  affect  so 
materially  the  human  race.  Four  years  later  an  expert  of  the 
Census  Bureau  declared  that  few  articles  ever  used  by  man  had 
created  so  great  a  revolution  in  social  conditions.44 

Other  outdoor  activities  of  the  town  might  be  cited.  Among 
those  who  owned  a  carriage,  or  could  afford  to  patronize  the 


local  livery-stable,  there  was  always  a  great  deal  of  driving  and 
informal  trotting  matches.  Young  men  still  found  the  buggy  ride 
the  most  pleasant  way  of  courting.  Winter  sleighing  had  lost 
none  of  its  popularity,  and  skating  always  had  its  enthusiasts. 
There  were  many  rod  and  gun  clubs,  which  promoted  competi- 
tive shoots  with  neighboring  towns  as  well  as  hunting  and 
fishing.  Athletic  clubs,  drawing  upon  both  business  and  work- 
ing-class membership,  occasionally  held  track  and  field  events. 
But  the  outstanding  form  of  outdoor  recreation  in  the  American 
town  of  the  1890*s,  for  old  and  young,  men  and  women,  was 

SMALL-TOWN  STUFF!  Skim  through  the  pages  of  the  local  paper, 
in  New  England,  the  South  or  the  Middle  West,  at  any  time 
during  the  1890's,  and  there  is  the  record  of  those  amusements 
and  entertainments  which  so  largely  served  to  give  the  American 
town  its  distinctive  character.  Simple  and  homely,  far  removed 
from  the  glittering  gaiety  of  the  urban  world,  they  provided  the 
recreation  half  a  century  ago  of  a  people  still  living  in  what 
we  nostalgically  call  the  horse-and-buggy  era. 

In  one  town  during  a  single  week  at  the  close  of  the  century> 
new  officers  were  formally  installed  at  the  Golden  Cross  Com- 
mandery,  a  Baptist  ladies*  social  was  attended  by  over  one 
hundred  ("supper  was  served  and  all  sorts  of  games  and  music 
helped  to  make  the  time  pass  quickly  away*),  and  the  dramatic 
club  staged  a  performance  for  the  benefit  of  the  Grange.  The 
Fessenden  Helping  Hand  Society  gave  a  supper  and  social,  and 
a  traveling  company  presented  My  Friend  from  India  at  the 
Opera  House.  Twelve  pairs  took  part  in  the  Tuesday-night  whist 
tournament^  forty  couples  attended  the  adult  dancing-class,  and 
a  number  of  informal  sleighing  parties  were  held.  There  were 
announced,  among  other  coming  events,  a  banquet  of  the  Wheel 
Club,  at  which  the  governor  of  the  state  and  other  prominent 
guests  were  to  be  treated  to  a  number  of  "entertaining  musical 


features**;  an  old-fashioned  dance  sponsored  by  the  Oasis  En- 
campment, I.O.O.F.;  a  lecture  under  the  auspices  of  the  Daugh- 
ters of  the  American  Revolution;  a  basketball  game  with  a 
neighboring  town;  and  a  fair  and  festival  of  the  Universalist 
Society,  dancing  from  8:30  to  1  with  Leitsinger's  orchestra.45 

Here  it  all  is— a  life  which  had  not  greatly  changed  in  the 
course  of  years  and  was  to  continue  almost  uninterrupted  in 
some  parts  of  the  country  for  another  half -century.  But  the  in- 
ventions of  a  new  age  were  soon  to  alter  greatly  the  underlying 
pattern,  not  as  much  as  in  the  city  or  in  the  more  completely 
rural  areas,  but  enough  to  broaden  the  town's  horizons  and  to 
introduce  into  its  simple  lif  e  a  growing  sophistication. 



\~s  £he  lack  of  amusements  in  the  rural  America  of  the  late  nine- 
teenth century.  Life  on  the  farm  varied  greatly  in  different  parts 
of  the  country,  but  it  could  not  anywhere  offer  social  or  recrea- 
tional opportunities  comparable  to  those  of  town  or  city.  A 
majority  of  all  Americans— two  out  of  every  three  people  still 
lived  in  the  country  despite  the  increasing  exodus  to  the  cities- 
found  themselves  largely  cut  off  from  both  the  commercial 
amusements  and  the  organized  sports  which  had  so  transformed 
urban  recreation. 

In  the  Middle  West,  more  typical  of  the  agrarian  scene  than 
any  other  part  of  the  country,  the  isolation  which  the  telephone, 
the  automobile,  and  the  radio  have  now  broken  down  was  espe- 
cially marked.  The  farmer  was  often  miles  from  his  nearest  neigh- 
bor, and  even  farther  away  from  the  town.  The  incessant  labor, 
the  almost  unbroken  daily  routine,  and  the  dreary  loneliness  of 
the  great  farms  being  opened  up  on  the  prairies  have  been  de- 
scribed again  and  again  in  sectional  novel  and  autobiography. 
The  lack  of  amusements  played  no  small  part  in  stirring  up  the 
discontent  that  led  to  agricultural  revolt  and  to  the  Populist 
movement  of  the  1890's. 

An  even  gloomier  picture  is  sometimes  drawn  of  rural  life  in 
the  East  with  its  equally  back-breaking  work  and  often  less  fa- 
vorable rewards.  "As  for  amusements  and  recreation,"  Nathaniel 
Egleston  wrote  in  1878,  "there  is  next  to  none,  at  least  that  is 
worthy  of  the  name.  It  has  beea  said  of  the  New  England  vil- 
lagers particularly  that  their  only  recreations  are  their  funeral 



occasions. . . . Life  drags  on  with  an  almost  unvarying  round  of 
toil.  There  is  little  to  break  up  its  monotony.9* x 

There  were  several  factors  in  the  latter  half  of  the  century 
that  tended,  to  make  the  country  scene  duller  than  it  had  ever 
been  before.  Tn  town  one  can  find  the  swimming  school,  the 
gymnasium,  the  dancing  master,  the  shooting  gallery,  opera, 
theatre,  and  panorama,"  Emerson  had  written  in  mid-century. 
"In  the  country  he  can  find  solitude  and  reading,  manly  labor, 
cheap  living,  and  his  old  shoes;  moors  for  game,  hills  for  geology, 
and  groves  for  devotion."  2  But  not  all  the  world  was  a  philos- 
opher, and  in  the  busy  life  of  the  1890*s  the  greater  opportunities 
of  the  city  were  increasingly  responsible  for  that  drift  to  metrop- 
olis which  had  its  obverse  side  in  rural  stagnation. 

^Sloven  farms  alternate  with  vast  areas  of  territory  half  forest, 
half  pasturage,"  wrote  one  observant  traveler  in  the  New  Eng- 
land of  1892;  "farm  buildings,  partly  in  ruins,  testify  at  once  to 
the  former  prosperity  of  agricultural  industry  and  to  its  present 
collapse."  Another  traveler  was  struck  by  the  number  of  aban- 
doned churches,  dismantled  academies,  and  moribund  lodges 
in  sections  where  the  greater  number  of  inhabitants  had  fled 
"to  the  manufacturing  villages,  to  the  great  cities,  to  the  West." 8 
The  mute  evidence  of  this  depopulation  still  remains  in  stone 
fences  running  through  land  now  completely  overgrown,  in  the 
crumbling  foundations  of  houses  long  since  deserted.  Every  pres- 
ent-day resident  of  New  England  encounters  them  in  cross- 
country rambles. 

Under  such  circumstances  the  young  people  were  oppressed 
by  the  growing  contrast  between  their  drab  lives  and  the  free- 
dom of  the  city.  With  the  loss  of  the  more  active  and  enterprising 
members  of  the  community,  the  stay-at-homes  often  lacked  the 
initiative  to  make  the  most  of  such  opportunities  as  still  remained 
to  them.  They  resigned  themselves  to  the  limited  and  circum- 
scribed life  that  the  depleted  countryside  represented.  Moreover, 
where  conditions  were  more  favorable,  as  has  already  been 
pointed  out,  there  was  no  longer  the  diversity  of  occupations  on 


the  farm  which  had  given  so  much  variety  to  rural  life  in  earlier 
days.  Without  any  shortening  of  the  long  hours  of  labor  from 
sunrise  to  sunset,  the  fanner  had  to  work  on  day  after  day  at  the 
same  routine  jobs— planting  and  reaping,  the  endless  weeding  of 
crops,  and  a  multitude  of  daily  chores.  Nor  could  he  count,  as  he 
had  in  the  past,  upon  many  interruptions  to  this  steady  grind. 
There  were  still  hunting  and  fishing.  The  latter  remained  in  some 
parts  of  the  country  a  favorite  diversion,  but  the  good  old  days 
were  passing  for  hunting.  The  fanner  had  his  rifle  or  shotgun, 
possibly  a  pack  of  dogs,  but  the  growing  scarcity  of  game,  and 
restrictions  on  such  shooting  as  still  remained,  greatly  limited  the 
scope  of  what  had  once  been  such  universal  sport. 

Something  was  lost— and  for  settlers  in  the  Middle  West  it  was 
within  their  own  experience— as  the  years  rolled  on  and  agri- 
culture became  more  a  demanding  business  and  less  a  way  of 
life.  Fencing  the  land  and  driving  out  the  game  marked  progress. 
So  did  improved  farm  machinery— reapers,  self-binding  har- 
vesters, engines  for  threshing  grain.  They  also  spelled  the  end  of 
an  era. 

Hamlin  Garland  has  described  how  the  West  was  affected  by 
these  changes.  "Buoyant,  vital,  confident,"  he  wrote  of  his  family 
and  their  neighbors  in  their  early  years  of  pioneering,  "these  sons 
of  the  border  bent  to  their  work  of  breaking  sod  and  building 
fences  quite  in  the  spirit  of  sportsmen. . . .  With  them  reaping 
was  a  game,  husking  corn  a  test  of  endurance  and  skill,  threshing 
a  ^bee*. . . .  My  father's  laughing  descriptions  of  the  barn-raisings, 
harvestings  and  rail-splittings  of  the  valley  filled  my  mind  with 
vivid  pictures  of  manly  deeds."  But  as  time  went  on  there  were 
fewer  and  fewer  of  "the  changing  works"  which  had  served  to 
bring  people  together.  "We  held  no  more  quilting  bees  or  barn 
raisings,"  he  wrote  of  conditions  a  decade  later.  "Women  visited 
less  often. . . .  The  work  on  the  farms  was  never  ending,  and  all 
teams  were  in  constant  use  during  week  days.  The  young  people 
got  together  on  one  excuse  or  another,  but  their  elders  met  only 
at  public  meetings."  * 


For  all  this  evidence  of  the  dreariness  of  rural  life,  a  picture 
of  the  country  painted  in  such  somber  colors  would  nevertheless 
not  be  wholly  true.  There  were  compensations  for  the  passing  of 
old  sports  and  pastimes.  The  fanner  still  had  an  independence 
and  freedom  which  the  clerk  and  factory  worker  lacked;  he  still 
had  the  active  outdoor  life  from  which  the  city  dweller  was  cut 
oft  He  was  never  wholly  deprived  of  normal  recreation.  His  op- 
portunities were  rare,  spaced  at  long  intervals,  but  for  that  very 
reason  they  meant  a  great  deal  to  him.  He  enjoyed  them  with 
an  intensity  which  his  city  cousin,  often  surfeited  with  a  wealth 
of  easy  entertainment,  seldom  experienced.  Frequency  alone  is 
no  test  for  the  value  of  amusements.  The  isolated  farm  family 
may  well  have  got  a  greater  sum  of  enjoyment  from  its  occasional 
social  gathering  or  informal  entertainment  than  urbanites  could 
possibly  derive  from  all  their  passive  commercialized  amuse- 
ments. The  Grange  meeting,  a  social  at  the  local  school-house,  a 
country  dance,  the  Fourth  of  July  picnic,  the  annual  county 
fair,  the  coming  of  the  circus—  here  were  events  looked  forward 
to  for  months  with  eager  anticipation,  and  remembered  for 
months  afterwards  with  continuing  pleasure* 

THE  GRANGE  had  been  founded,  as  the  Patrons  of  Husbandry, 
in  1867.  A  secret  fraternal  order,  somewhat  along  the  lines  of  the 
Odd  Fellows,  its  organizers  hoped  it  could  do  something  to  aid 
the  farmers  through  various  cooperative  activities.  Its  growth  was 
amazing—  as  might  be  expected  in  a  period  which  was  to  witness 
such  a  rapid  multiplication  of  fraternal  orders,  women's  clubs, 
and  other  comparable  organizations.  Within  six  years  there  were 
fifteen  thousand  local  granges  scattered  throughout  the  country, 
most  numerous  in  the  Middle  West  and  South,  with  a  total  mem- 
bership of  a  million  and  a  half.  The  Patrons  of  Husbandry  were 
fully  embarked  on  a  broad  program  of  agricultural  education,  co- 
operative buying  and  selling,  and  political  activity.5 
The  Grange  meeting,  whatever  the  business  under  discussion, 

A  New  England  Straw  Ride 
Frank  Leslie's  Illustrated  Newspaper,   1869. 

A  Grange  Meeting  in  an  Illinois  School-House 
Frank  Leslie's  Illustrated  Newspaper,  1874. 

Tlie  Day  We  Celebrate 

Engraving  by  John  C.  McRae  after  a  painting  by  F.  A.  Chapman,  1875. 
Courtesy  of  the  New  York  Historical  Society. 


soon  became  the  principal  social  gathering  of  the  farm  com- 
munity. And  this  aspect  of  it  was  emphasized  by  the  presence 
of  women,  admitted  from  the  first  into  full  membership.  They 
gave  the  Grange  a  vitality  it  could  not  otherwise  have  had. 
There  were  sometimes  other  farm  organizations  £hat  promoted 
rural  recreation.  In  Iowa  an  Anti-Horse  Thief  Association,  having 
largely  succeeded  in  its  goal  of  affording  protection  for  its  mem- 
bers* live  stock,  concerned  itself  with  the  lighter  side  of  life.6 
But  the  Grange  was  the  social  leader.  It  undertook  to  organize 
lectures  and  concerts,  held  young  people's  debates  and  spelling- 
bees,  promoted  singing-schools,  and  arranged  evenings  of  gen- 
eral entertainment. 

The  latter  were  usually  held  at  the  school-house;  it  was  the 
community  center.  The  bleak  little  building  might  be  bare  and 
unadorned,  but  swinging  oil  lamps  and  the  cheerful  warmth 
of  its  large  wood  stove  quickly  transformed  it  into  an  attractive 
meeting-place.  The  wooden  benches  or  desk  seats,  initialed  by 
the  jack-knives  of  countless  school-boys,  were  rearranged  for  the 
audience,  and  tiie  chairman  or  speaker  took  the  proud  eminence 
of  the  teacher's  platform.  The  farm  families  would  drive  in  from 
miles  around,  often  bringing  box  suppers,  and  spend  a  long  eve- 
ning over  the  simplest  amusements.  The  program  would  be  very 
much  like  that  of  the  social  in  a  small  town.  Recitations  were 
popular,  and  the  singing  of  old  songs.  There  were  sometimes 
charades  or  tableaux.  If  there  were  refreshments,  they  were 
usually  coffee  and  doughnuts. 

Sometimes  at  these  entertainments  at  the  school-house,  and 
once  in  a  while  at  some  farmer's  house,  there  would  be  a  coun- 
try dance.  They  were  family  affairs,  young  and  old  taking  part. 
Chairs  and  tables  would  be  pushed  back,  the  fiddler  get  out 
his  precious  instrument,  and  the  company  wait  expectantly  for 
the  shouted  signal  "Ba-al-ance  all"  or  "A-al-all  dance." 

"It  was  a  joy  to  watch  him  'start  the  set,' "  reads  a  description 
of  one  country  fiddler  (also  the  butcher  and  horse-doctor)  called 
upon  for  a  farm-house  dance.  "With  a  fiddle  under  his  chin  he 


took  his  seat  in  a  big  chair  on  the  kitchen  table  in  order  to 
command  the  floor.  'Farm  on,  farm  on!'  he  called  disgustedly. 
^Lively  now!*  and  then,  when  all  the  couples  were  in  position, 
with  one  mighty  No.  14  boot  uplifted,  with  one  bow  laid  to  the 
strings  he  snarled,  'Already— Gelang!9  and  with  a  thundering- 
crash  his  foot  came  down.  'Honors  tew  your  pardners— right  and 
left  Four!'  And  the  dance  was  on!" 7 

The  tunes  were  "Money  Musk,"  "Fisher's  Hornpipe,"  "The 
Irish  Washerwoman,"  "Cut  the  Pigeon  Wing,"  'Turkey  in  the 
Straw"— all  the  old  favorites.  One  very  popular  was  the  minstrel 
song  "Old  Dan  Tucker."  It  gave  rise  to  a  dance,  sometimes  known 
as  the  "tag  dance,"  which  foreshadowed  a  modern  custom.  At 
one  point  the  fiddler,  or  whoever  was  calling  the  numbers, 
shouted  out,  "Go  in  Tucker!"  and  any  odd  man  was  allowed  to 
cut  in  on  a  temporarily  unattached  girl.8 

In  the  New  England  village,  a  barn  or  shed  was  sometimes 
made  over  into  a  dance-hall  where  the  young  people  from 
near-by  farms  met  on  Saturday  nights.  A  description  of  one 
such  hall  relates  that  it  was  an  unpainted  one-story  building 
with  open  sides— a  kerosene  lamp  swinging  from  the  ceiling,  a 
few  American  flags  as  decorations,  and  a  large  sign,  "Please  do 
not  spit  on  the  floor."  Buckboards  and  buggies  were  hitched  to 
the  horse-rails  while  the  dance  was  on.9 

There  was  a  prejudice  against  playing  the  fiddle  or  other  in- 
strumental music  in  some  rural  communities  that  still  did  not 
go  so  far  as  to  disapprove  dancing.  This  did  not  greatly  matter: 
the  young  people  sang  the  dance  tunes,  and  the  party  went  on 
no  less  gaily.  "Weevily  Wheat"  was  one  of  the  favorite  singing 

Oh,  Charley,  he's  a  fine  young  man, 

Oh,  Charley,  he's  a  dandy; 

Charley  is  a  fine  young  man, 

For  he  buys  the  girls  some  candy. 

Another  even  more  gay  and  lilting  air  was  "Buffalo  Gals,"  sung 
with  many  local  variations: 


Oh,  Buffalo  gals,  ain't  you  comin*  out  tonight, 

Ain't  you  comin*  out  to-night,  ain't  you  comin'  out  to-night; 

Oh,  Buffalo  gals,  ain't  you  comin*  out  to-night, 

To  dance  by  the  light  of  the  moon? 

Reminiscing  of  life  in  rural  Indiana  about  1880,  Chase  S. 
Osborn  described  such  dances  in  a  letter  incorporated  by  Mark 
Sullivan  in  Our  Times.  "The  violin  (fiddle)  was  taboo,  but  we 
sang  songs  and  danced  to  them  and  hugged  the  girls  until  they 
would  often  grunt  as  we  swung  them  clean  off  the  floor  or 
ground,  in  the  barn  or  house  or  on  the  green: 

Higher  up  the  cherry  trees  the  sweeter  grows  the  cherry, 

The  more  ye  hug  and  kiss  the  gals  the  sooner  they  will  marry. 

And  'Billy  Boy'— 'She's  a  young  thing  and  cannot  leave  her 
mother!'  It  was  the  time  of  Captain  Jinks  of  the  Horse  Marines, 
and  Down  in  a  Coal  Mine*. . . .  And  *  Hound  and  'Round  the 
Mulberry  Bush/"10 

In  the  more  thickly  settled  and  prosperous  areas  the  sim- 
plicity of  these  evening  entertainments  and  country  dances  was 
already  a  thing  of  the  past  by  the  end  of  the  century.  Here 
recreation  on  the  farm  followed  more  nearly  that  of  the  town, 
and  might  be  closely  associated  with  it.  But  for  a  great  part  of 
the  Middle  West  those  twin  phenomena,  lack  of  opportunity  and 
narrow  religious  views,  had  the  restraining  influence  so  often 
observed  in  earlier  days.  They  upheld  a  prejudice  against  any 
departures  from  old  customs  which  was  intensified  for  the  older 
generation  by  what  they  heard  of  urban  amusements. 

More  exciting  and  colorful  than  the  school-house  socials  was 
the  annual  Grange  picnic.  It  did  not  bring  together  only  friends 
and  neighbors.  From  a  radius  of  perhaps  a  hundred  miles,  as  in 
earlier  pioneer  days,  the  farmers  and  their  families  gathered  at 
the  grove  that  had  been  selected  for  the  meeting.  A  few  of  the 
more  prosperous  might  drive  in  spring-board  buggies,  but  farm 
wagons  were  far  more  common.  Two  families  would  double  up, 
making  a  "bowery  wagon"  out  of  their  wagon-box  by  means  of 


a  few  planks,  and  hitch  up  four-horse  or  six-horse  teams.  Mem- 
bers of  the  different  lodges  formed  in  line  as  they  drew  near 
the  grove,  carrying  gay  banners  on  which  the  women  had 
emblazoned  the  lodge  mottoes.  "Some  of  the  columns  had  bands/' 
reads  a  contemporary  description,  "and  came  preceded  by  far 
faint  streams  of  music,  with  marshals  in  red  sashes  galloping  to 
and  fro  in  fine  assumption  of  military  command." "• 

There  were  invariably  speeches.  If  the  picnic  was  held  on  the 
Fourth  of  July,  the  fervid  political  oratory  that  the  West  loved 
so  much  might  hold  the  audience  of  farmers  and  their  wives  for 
hours.  Basket  lunches  of  cold  fried  chicken— a  Grange  picnic 
involved  wholesale  slaughter  in  the  hen-roosts  of  the  community 
—were  next  on  the  program.  The  band  played,  the  men  talked 
politics,  and  the  women  gossiped.  There  were  often  sports  in  the 
afternoon,  and  this  was  the  nearest  approach  to  the  old  rural 
pastimes  of  colonial  days:  races  of  all  kinds,  wrestling  matches, 
and  that  most  popular  of  rural  diversions,  pitching  horseshoes. 
There  was  usually  a  baseball  game.  Nothing  more  picturesque, 
more  delightful,  more  helpful,"  Hamlin  Garland  has  recalled, 
"has  ever  arisen  out  of  American  rural  life.  Each  of  these 
assemblies  was  a  most  grateful  relief  from  the  sordid  loneliness 
of  the  f  arm  /' 12 

Sometimes  the  Fourth  of  July  was  celebrated  by  a  gathering 
in  the  nearest  town— however  distant  it  might  be.  On  July  1, 
18&0,  the  local  paper  of  one  small  Illinois  town  printed  its  entire 
issue  in  red  ink  to  draw  the  farmers*  attention  to  the  attractions 
it  was  planning  for  the  Fourth.  In  response  to  such  a  glowing 
appeal,  they  came  into  town  in  greater  numbers  than  on  any 
previous  holiday.  A  parade  headed  by  a  military  band  started 
the  festivities,  and  this  was  followed  by  the  usual  patriotic  ad- 
dress and  an  afternoon  of  sports.  The  townspeople  had  set  up 
refreshment  stands  where  the  farmers  supplemented  their  basket 
lunches.  In  the  evening  the  firemen  gave  a  ball  at  the  city  hall.13 

The  Fourth  was  always  a  tremendous  day  for  men  and  women 
who  day  after  day,  week  after  week,  seldom  saw  even  their 


nearest  neighbors.  If  they  went  to  town,  its  life  and  movement, 
however  small  the  place  might  actually  be,  held  them  enthralled. 
The  games  and  sports  were  incidental.  The  crowd,  the  incessant 
activity  of  a  large  number  of  people,  provided  the  real  fun  of 
the  day  at  every  Grange  picnic  or  holiday  celebration. 

THE  ANNUAL  state  or  county  fair  had  its  reason  for  being  in  the 
familiar  exhibits  of  cows  and  pigs  and  chickens;  pumpkins,  corn, 
and  tomatoes;  jellies,  pies,  and  fancywork.  Farmers  and  their 
wives  competed  eagerly  for  the  prized  blue  ribbons.  But  as  time 
went  on,  the  side-shows  gradually  overshadowed  the  main  tent. 
"The  people,'*  sighed  Josh  Billings,  banker  fur  pure  agrikultural 

From  colonial  days  America  had  enjoyed  market  fairs,  and 
whether  in  New  England  or  in  the  South,  horse-races,  prize 
contests,  and  the  exhibitions  of  traveling  showmen  had  been  one 
of  their  distinctive  features.  When  Elkanah  Watson  introduced 
the  modern  country  fair  early  in  the  nineteenth  century,  he 
intended  something  quite  different.  The  Berkshire  Agricultural 
Society  was  concerned  with  crop  rotation,  use  of  fertilizer,  care- 
ful seed  selection,  and  intelligent  animal-breeding.  Its  annual 
meetings  were  to  teach  a  lesson  the  farmers  could  understand. 
The  experiment  was  successful  and  quicldy  copied.  In  the  period 
immediately  following  the  Civil  War  there  were  over  twelve 
hundred  state,  district,  county,-  and  township  agricultural  so- 
cieties, and  the  greater  number  of  them  held  annual  fairs  with 
an  attendance  from  a  few  hundred  to  as  many  as  ten  thousand 

From  the  very  first,  plowing  contests  and  speed  trials  had  been 
necessary  to  show  the  advantages  of  careful  breeding,  and  it  was 
not  long  before  the  horse-race  and  the  trotting  match  assumed 
an  importance  not  entirely  warranted  on  scientific  grounds. 
Heavy  milk-producers,  mammoth  sows,  and  prize  pumpkins 
drew  their  crowds,  but  special  stands  had  to  be  built  at  the  track 


to  hold  the  throngs  that  flocked  to  the  harness  races.  We  have 
seen  what  was  happening  in  mid-century  when  even  onetime 
Puritan  New  England  produced  crowds  of  thirty  thousand  for 
the  trotting  matches  of  the  Boston  Agricultural  Club.  After  the 
Civil  War  the  thousand-odd  agricultural  societies  all  had  their 
races.  A  very  reasonable  economic  motive  furthered  this  devel- 
opment: the  trotting  matches  drew  so  many  people  that  they 
virtually  supported  the  whole  fair.  Large  purses  consequently 
were  put  up  to  draw  horses  from  all  over  the  country  and 
thereby  attract  still  greater  crowds.  The  fastest  trotters,  and  a 
new  professional  class  of  drivers,  made  the  rounds  every  fall. 
In  the  1870*s  Goldsmith  and  American  Maid  were  the  bright 
stars  of  the  Grand  Trotting  Circuit,  and  a  few  years  later  the 
famous  Maud  S  lowered  the  mile  record  to  2:08£  minutes.  Adop- 
tion of  the  bicycle  sulky  and  improvements  in  the  tracks  soon 
afterwards  made  the  two-minute  mile  an  almost  everyday  oc- 

Other  commercial  amusements  now  appeared.  At  first  they 
were  not  officially  permitted,  but  traveling  showmen  naturally 
took  advantage  of  the  crowds  attracted  by  the  fair.  <fOn  the 
outside  of  the  grounds,"  stated  the  report  of  an  Ohio  fair  in  1858, 
"there  were  any  number  of  outside  shows;  learned  pigs,  fat 
women,  snakes,  monkeys,  all  jumbling  together  in  Biblical  con- 
fusion, while  lager  beer  saloons  and  melon  stands  supplied  those 
in  quest  of  such  delicacies/*17  It  became  obvious  that  if  these 
amusements  were  to  become  associated  with  the  fair,  they  might 
as  well  be  within  the  grounds  as  without  them,  making  their 
contribution  to  the  running  expenses  of  the  often  hard-pressed 

"The  same  horse  trots,  ball-games,  bicycle  races,  livestock  ex- 
hibits, and  trials  of  draught  horses,"  a  contemporary  wrote  of 
a  New  England  fair  in  the  1890's,  "the  same  side-shows,  fakirs, 
freaks  and  uproarious  fun  that  always  go  on  such  occasions." 1S 
Prizes  were  given  for  female  equestrianism  as  well  as  for  hooked 
rugs  and  samplers,  for  velocipedestrianism  as  well  as  for  supe- 


rior  Guernseys.  In  1888  a  Rhode  Island  fair  advertised  "a  grand 
tournament  of  bicyclers,  a  balloon  ascension . . .  polo  games, 
steeple  chasing,  football  match,  and  racing  by  wheelbarrows, 
greased  poles,  sacks  and  horses." 19 

On  the  day  of  the  fair  the  town  would  be  crowded,  the  grounds 
densely  packed  with  medicine  shows  and  itinerant  peddlers 
adding  to  the  confusion  and  excitement.  Hamlin  Garland  has 
described  the  tremendous  impression  made  upon  him  as  .a  small 
boy  by  one  of  these  fakirs.  He  was  a  tall,  lean  man  with  long 
black  hair,  wearing  a  large  white  hat,  and  had  as  his  assistants 
a  little  fat  man  and  a  sad-eyed  girl  with  a  guitar.  Dr.  Lightner's 
spiel  on  his  magic  oil  entranced  the  boy,  but  the  girl  was  romance 
incarnate.  As  they  sang 

O  Mary  had  a  little  lamb, 
Its  fleece  was  black  as  jet, 

"her  voice,  a  childish  soprano,  mingled  with  the  robust  baritone 
of  the  doctor  and  the  shouting  tenor  of  the  fat  man,  like  a  thread 
of  silver  in  a  skein  of  brass."  20 

After  the  Chicago  World's  Fair  one  exhibition  could  be 
counted  upon  as  certainly  as  a  prize  sow  or  a  trotting  race.  "The 
lady  on  my  right,  who  I  now  interduce,"  the  barker  might  be 
heard  announcing  at  every  fair  throughout  the  country,  "is  the 
world-famed  Little  Egypt."  At  other  tents  on  hundreds  of  mid- 
ways were  dancing-girls,  lady  boxers,  baby  shows,  and  graphic 
reproductions  of  the  Streets  of  Cairo— a  camel,  a  donkey,  and  a 
few  ragged  Chicago  Arabs.21  There  were  always  freak  exhibitions 
—the  three-legged  calf  and  two-headed  chicken;  candy  booths 
and  soft-drink  stalls;  shooting-galleries  and  meny-go-rounds. 
Where  the  fair  was  not  big  enough  to  support  professional 
trotting  races,  farmers  drove  or  rode  their  own  horses.  A  popular 
feature  was  the  boys*  race— a  mad,  helter-skelter  run  on  ponies 
or  plow-horses. 

Again  the  fanners  would  bring  their  basket  lunches  of  cold 
chicken  and  stay  the  entire  day,  not  spending  very  much  but 


seeing  everything.  And  again  what  they  enjoyed  most  were 
the  crowds  which  gave  them  a  fleeting  taste  of  town  life. 

WE  LEFT  the  circus  in  the  1850's  with  Barnum  touring  the  coun- 
try with  his  Grand  Colossal  Museum  and  Menagerie.  It  had 
greatly  expanded  since  those  days;  it  reached  its  highest  peak  in 
the  last  quarter  of  the  century.  At  least  forty  large  shows  were 
on  tour,  and  many  more  smaller  ones.  They  played  cities,  towns, 
and  hamlets,  pitching  the  big  top  wherever  they  could  hope  to 
draw  a  crowd.  Popular  everywhere,  the  circus  meant  for  the 
farmer  the  one  taste  of  theatrical  entertainment  that  he  might 
ever  have  a  chance  to  enjoy.  The  circus  had  a  glamour  about 
it  which  nothing  else  in  rural  life  could  equal. 

Barnum's  name  was  still  one  to  conjure  with  in  the  circus 
world.  Historians  point  out;  that  it  was  really  William  C.  Coup 
who  was  the  prime  mover  in  establishing  the  Greatest  Show  on 
Earth  and  that  James  A.  Bailey  was  the  real  circus  king  of  the 
1890's.22  But  it  was  Barnum's  reputation  that  packed  the  main 
tent  Joining  forces  with  Coup  in  1871,  he  had  brought  together, 
with  an  immense  fanfare  of  ballyhoo,  the  largest  collection  of 
wild  animals,  curiosities,  acrobats,  equestrian  performers,  and 
clowns  ever  assembled.  There  were  giraffes  from  Africa  and  can- 
nibals from  the  Fiji  Islands;  Admiral  Dot  (successor  to  General 
Tom  Thumb)  and  Esau  the  Bearded  Boy;  more  elephants  than 
ever  before;  and,  wonder  of  wonders,  a  hippopotamus—  '^blood- 
sweating  Behemoth  of  Holy  Writ.*  The  big  top  was  the  largest 
tent  area  the  world  had  ever  known;  it  covered  two  rings,  and 
then  three  rings.  The  entire  company,  animals  and  all,  toured 
by  rail  in  sixty-one  special  cars.23 

With  its  accommodations  for  ten  thousand  and  then  twenty 
thousand  people,  this  circus  naturally  played  only  the  larger 
towns.  But  the  farmers  somehow  got  there.  The  railroads  ran 
special  half-rate  excursion  trains,  and  they  camped  out  on  the 
circus  grounds.  It  was  more  than  the  event  of  a  year;  it  seemed 


Proof  before  letters  of  a  lithograph  by  Currier  and  Ives  after  a  drawing  by 
Louis  Maurer,  1866.  Courtesy  of  Harry  T.  Peters, 


the  event  of  a  lifetime.  Each  season  this  popular  show  (it  was 
already  firing  a  man  from  the  mouth  of  a  cannon  as  one  of  its 
great  attractions)  took  in  anywhere  from  one  to  two  million  dol- 
lars in  gross  receipts.24 

When  his  circus  was  almost  totally  destroyed  by  fire  in  1880, 
Barnum  made  another  merger.  Barnum  and  Bailey's  was  born— 
a  still  bigger  and  better  Greatest  Show  on  Earth.  The  fire  from 
whose  ashes  he  had,  Phoenix-like,  arisen  in  still  greater  splendor, 
the  irrepressible  showman  announced,  had  only  served  to  illu- 
minate his  path  of  duly  as  the  American  people's  champion 
amusement  provider.  Nor  had  he  forgotten  his  earlier  technique. 
Barnum  still  lectured  on  temperance;  he  still  took  care  to  enlist 
church  support.  He  was  not  in  this  circus  business  merely  to 
make  money,  he  told  the  country.  It  was  his  mission  to  "provide 
dean,  moral  and  healthful  recreation  for  the  public."  25 

A  sensation  almost  comparable  to  those  he  had  achieved  in 
mid-century  with  his  famous  mermaid,  General  Tom  Thumb, 
and  Jenny  Land  awaited  him.  His  purchase  of  Jumbo,  the 
world's  largest  elephant,  from  the  Royal  Zoological  Gardens  in 
London  created  an  international  furor  in  1882  which  brought 
the  Greatest  Show  on  Earth  an  avalanche  of  publicity.  English- 
men were  incensed.  They  were  afraid  that  the  loss  of  Jumbo 
would  be  followed  by  that  of  Shakespeare's  grave  or  the  Tower 
of  London.  All  possible  means  were  exhausted  to  prevent  the 
famous  pachyderm's  departure.  Barnum  was  adamant.  Whatever 
the  difficulty  or  expense,  Jumbo  was  to  be  brought  to  America. 

On  the  fateful  day  set  for  his  removal,  the  elephant  lay  down 
in  the  middle  of  a  London  street.  All  England  cheered.  Barnum's 
agent  cabled  frantically  for  instructions.  "Let  him  lie  there  a 
week  if  he  wants  to,"  came  the  quick  answer.  "It's  the  best  ad- 
vertisement in  the  world."  When  he  finally  reached  this  country, 
Jumbo  led  a  torch-light  parade  for  the  opening  of  the  circus  at 
Madison  Square  Garden,  cheered  by  half  a  million  people.26 
Little  wonder  that  villagers  and  farmers  would  travel  miles  to 
see  him  whenever  they  had  an  opportunity. 


Barnum  and  Bailey's  had  many  rivals.  The  Ringling  brothers 
had  developed  their  Classic  and  Comic  Concert  Company  into 
one  of  the  world's  great  circuses;  and  the  Sells  Brothers 
Circus  and  Menagerie,  merging  with  Had]  Tahara's  Wild  Moor- 
ish Caravan,  boasted  four  rings  and  fifty-one  animal  cages.  Then 
there  were  Forepaugh'sr  Circus  and  Menagerie,  Van  Amburgh's, 
the  Irwin  Brothers,  Whitney's,  Williams'. . ,  .2T 

The  smaller  road  shows  copied  these  larger  circuses  in  every 
particular,  their  grandiloquent  advertisements  making  equally 
fantastic  claims.  Miles  Orton's  New  York  and  New  Orleans  Cir- 
cus, Menagerie  and  Wild  West  Show  toured  through  Illinois 
maldng  one-night  stands,  admission  twenty-five  cents.  With  fifty 
star  performers  and  the  marvelous  racing  elephant  Lizzie,  its 
posters  shouted  from  a  hundred  barns  that  it  was  the  greatest 
circus  of  all  time.28  In  Nevada,  Montgomery  Queen's  Caravan, 
Circus  and  Menagerie  advertised  its  "grand  centralization  of 
genius,  concentration  of  merit,  monopoly  of  equestrian  stars, 
avalanche  of  attractions.**29 

In  rural  areas  and  small  towns  the  program  for  circus  day  fol- 
lowed time-honored  custom,30  While  the  small  boys  were  out  at 
dawn  to  herald  its  arrival,  watching  the  elephants  cautiously  test 
the  bridges  wherever  the  approaching  road  crossed  a  stream,  the 
fanners  gathered  from  all  directions.  Every  kind  of  vehicle  would 
be  drafted  into  use.  There  were  great  farm  wagons,  drawn  per- 
haps by  a  pair  of  powerful  Clydesdales,  the  grown-up  members 
of  the  family  sitting  stiffly  in  their  best  Sunday  clothes  and  the 
excited  children  sprawled  in  the  straw  behind  them;  buckboards 
and  carry-alls;  phaetons  and  mule  teams.  Occasionally  the  son 
of  some  rich  farmer  might  whirl  by  in  a  side-bar  buggy,  his 
best  girl  beside  him,  scattering  clouds  of  dust  over  the  plodding 
wagons.  Even  before  the  morning  parade  officially  opened  the 
day's  festivities,  the  town's  quiet  streets  would  be  a  whirl  of 
excitement.  Strolling  mountebanks,  candy  and  popcorn  sellers, 
vendors  of  palm-leaf  fans  and  toy  balloons,  three-card  monte  men 
and  sly  practitioners  of  the  shell  game.  Everywhere  rang  out  the 


shrill  cry  of  the  vendors  of  pink  lemonade— "Lemo!  Lemo!  Ice- 
cole  lemo!  Five  cents,  a  nickel,  a  half-a-dime,  the  twentieth- 
potofadollah!  Lemo!  Ice-cole  lemor 

The  parade  would  burst  upon  these  excited  crowds  with  a 
blast  of  trumpets  which  rattled  all  the  windows  on  Main  Street. 
The  band  sweated  and  puffed  at  their  instruments  as  they  rode 
proudly  by  in  the  great  circus  wagon,  with  its  twenty-  or  even 
forty-horse  hitch;  chariots  driven  by  helmeted  Romans  rumbled 
along  behind  wagon  cages  between  whose  bars  could  be  seen 
chattering  monkeys,  restless  tigers;  the  equestrienne  performers, 
dazzling  visions  of  grace  and  loveliness,  haughtily  sat  their 
plumed  and  prancing  steeds;  the  elephants  swung  ponderously 
by  with  swaying  howdahs;  and  the  clown  made  his  uproarious 
progress  through  the  crowd  in  a  flashing  donkey  cart.  Above  the 
crack  of  whips  and  rumble  of  wheels  floated  the  steam  calliope's 
shrill  rendition  of  the  popular  circus  songs: 31 

My  love  has  joined  the  circus, 

And  I  don't  know  what  to  do, 

She  feeds  the  elephants  crackers  and  cheese, 

And  she  plays  with  the  kangaroo. 

or  the  rollicking  tune  of  Van  Amburg: 

He  sticks  his  head  in  the  lion's  mouth, 

And  holds  it  there  awhile, 

And  when  he  takes  it  out  again 

He  greets  you  with  a  smile. 

Even  more  familiar  to  later  generations  was  another  popular  song 
to  which  the  circus  gave  a  nation-wide  currency: 

He  flew  through  the  air  with  the  greatest  of  ease, 
The  daring  young  man  on  the  flying  trapeze; 
His  movements  so  graceful,  all  girls  he  could  please 
And  my  love  he  purloined  away. 

A  midsummer  sun  might  beat  down  relentlessly  on  all  this  tin- 
seled display.  The  dust  might  swirl  in  great  clouds  about  the 


ponderous  elephants  and  rumbling  chariots.  But  none  could 
resist  the  excited  cry,  The  drew  is  coming! 

After  basket  lunches,  the  crowd  flowed  to  the  flagged  and 
tented  circus  lot,  and  soon  the  familiar  call,  "Right  this  way  to 
the  big  show!"  was  packing  them  in  close  rows  on  the  wooden 
benches  which  rose  around  the  sides  of  the  tent  The  bands 
blared  forth  the  signal  for  the  grand  opening  march,  Here  it  all 
was-the  ring-master  cracking  his  whip,  the  cry  of  the  popcorn 
vendors,  the  white-faced  clowns,  the  dizzying  swings  on  the 
flying  trapeze,  the  living  statues,  the  pervasive  smeU  of  saw- 
dust. . , , 

Even  after  the  equestrians  had  given  their  last  exhibition  of 
trick  riding,  the  tumblers  and  tight-rope  dancers  performed  their 
final  stunts,  the  day  was  not  quite  over  for  those  whose  en- 
durance could  stand  further  excitement.  There  were  still  the 
freaks  and  wild  animals,  and  the  raucous  voice  of  the  announcer 
declared  that  the  minstrel  show,  all  the  songs  and  dances  of  the 
big  city,  was  just  about  to  start.  As  the  tired  holiday-makers 
finally  jogged  homewards  in  the  gathering  dusk,  the  children 
asleep  on  the  straw-covered  floor,  it  is  not  surprising  that  they 
often  felt  they  had  had  entertainment  enough  to  last  them 
for  many  months. 

"Each  year  one  came  along  from  the  east,"  Hamlin  Garland 
has  written  in  vivid  portrayal  of  what  the  circus  meant  not  only 
for  the  small  boy  but  for  the  entire  family  on  the  western  prairie, 
"trailing  clouds  of  glorified  dust  and  filling  our  minds  with  the 
color  of  romance. ...  It  brought  to  our  ears  the  latest  band  pieces 
and  taught  us  the  popular  songs.  It  furnished  us  with  jokes.  It  re- 
lieved  our  dullness.  It  gave  us  something  to  talk  about" 32 



A  almost  unnoticed  in  a  world  absorbed  in  affairs  of  more  im- 
mediate importance:  Two  young  men  who  had  been  following 
the  path  pointed  out  by  Edison's  invention  of  the  kinetoscope 
succeeded  in  throwing  moving  pictures  on  a  screen  at  a  public 
performance  at  the  Cotton  States  Exposition  in  Atlanta.  This 
country's  first  motor-vehicle  race  was  held  at  Chicago  on  Thanks- 
giving Day,  two  of  the  six  entries  (gasoline-driven)  actually 
completing  the  fifty-two-mile  course  in  a  little  over  ten  and  one- 
half  hours.  And,  on  the  other  side  of  the  Atlantic,  Guglielmo 
Marconi  publicly  demonstrated  (although  the  continuing  skep- 
ticism of  the  Italian  Government  sent  him  the  next  year  to  Eng- 
land) the  practicality  of  wireless  telegraphy.1 

The  generation  of  the  1890's  could  not  possibly  realize  the 
significance  of  these  milestones  in  the  progress  of  human  inven- 
tion. But  here  were  dimly  foreshadowed  developments  which 
were  to  have  the  broadest  social  consequences  and  affect  recrea- 
tion in  this  country  more  profoundly  than  anything  that  had 
ever  happened  before.  There  was  to  be  a  great  expansion  in 
sports  and  other  diversions  in  the  twentieth  century,  but  within 
a  strikingly  short  time  from  these  inconspicuous  events  of  1895, 
moving  pictures,  the  pleasure  use  of  automobiles,  and  the  radio 
were  to  become  by  every  criterion  the  principal  amusements  of 
the  great  majority  of  American  people. 

Their  popularity  was  a  result  of  the  changing  social  and  eco- 
nomic scene.  A  century  earlier  it  would  not  have  been  possible. 
The  increased  leisure  and  generally  higher  standard  of  living 



of  the  laboring  masses  in  the  first  instance  made  possible  the 
r61e  of  these  diversions  in  modern  life,  but  equally  important 
was  the  new  attitude  toward  amusement  which  was  itself  born 
of  this  economic  progress.  By  the  opening  of  the  twentieth  cen- 
tury, recreation  had  become  fully  accepted  in  this  country  as  a 
natural  right  of  people  of  whatever  social  status.  The  concept  of 
democracy  coalesced  with  the  profitable  economy  of  mass  pro- 
duction to  flood  the  land  with  moving  pictures,  automobiles, 
and  radios.  It  was  not  by  accident  that  in  no  other  country  of 
the  world  did  any  comparable  diffusion  of  these  new  means  of 
amusement  take  place  among  the  masses  of  the  people. 

It  was  symbolic  of  the  new  industrial  era  that  the  machine 
should  at  last  be  harnessed  to  the  amusements  of  an  age  which  it 
dominated  so  completely  in  every  other  way.  Its  more  general 
effect  during  the  nineteenth  century  had  been  at  one  and  the 
same  time  to  intensify  the  people's  need  for  recreation  and  to 
deprive  them  of  many  of  their  traditional  diversions.  It  had 
crowded  them  into  close-packed  manufacturing  towns  and  cities 
where  they  had  little  opportunity  for  play.  The  machine  was 
gradually  increasing  leisure  time  but  failing  to  provide  the  means 
to  enjoy  it.  Now  the  movies  supplied  the  equivalent  of  the  thea- 
tre for  every  one,  no  matter  how  poor;  the  automobile  opened  up 
entirely  new  recreational  possibilities,  transforming  the  whole 
social  scene;  and  the  radio  brought  entertainment  directly  into 
the  homes  of  millions  of  families  the  length  and  breadth  of  the 

THE  FIRST  moving  pictures  were  the  peep-shows  which  flourished 
during  the  1890's  in  the  phonograph  parlors,  billiard-rooms,  and 
penny  arcades  of  the  cities.  One  put  a  nickel  in  the  slot  of  one 
of  the  new-fangled  contraptions  Mr.  Edison  had  invented,  looked 
eagerly  through  the  peep-hole,  and  saw  the  magic  of  tiny  figures 
actually  moving  against  a  dim  and  blurred  background.  It  might 
be  a  man  sneezing,  a  girl  dancing,  or  a  baby  taking  its  bath. 


It  was  a  brief  entertainment,  but  its  novelty  brought  a  steady 
stream  of  nickels  to  the  pockets  of  enterprising  showmen.2 

When  the  experiments  of  several  inventors  (having  produced 
the  kinetoscope,  Edison  largely  lost  interest  in  what  he  regarded 
as  a  rather  childish  toy)  succeeded  in  transferring  these  moving 
pictures  to  a  screen  where  a  large  number  of  people  could  see 
them  at  the  same  time,  they  were  taken  up  by  the  variety  houses. 
In  New  York,  Koster  and  BiaTs  Music  Hall  gave  the  first  Broad- 
way exhibition  of  what  was  now  called  the  'Vitascope"  on  April 
23,  1896,3  and  soon  vaudeville  houses  everywhere  were  showing 
"living  pictures'*  as  a  star  feature  on  their  programs.  But  these 
jerky,  flickering  screen  productions  had  litde  more  than  their 
novelty  to  commend  them  to  audiences  at  the  better-class  vaude- 
ville theatres.  They  could  not  offer  effective  competition  to 
acrobatic  dances  and  popular  song  hits,  and  only  the  cheaper 
variety  houses  thought  it  worth  while  to  keep  on  showing  them. 
The  development  of  the  vitascope  was  largely  left  to  the  proprie- 
tors of  the  penny  arcades.  They  set  up  their  machines  in  tiny 
darkened  back  rooms  ("pick-pockets  could  go  through  you  as 
easy  as  an  eel  through  water")  and  drew  in  the  masses  of  city 
workers,  often  immigrants,  who  could  not  afford  any  better 

It  was  not  until  about  1905  that  an  important  forward  step  was 
taken  in  the  presentation  of  moving  pictures.  A  few  years  earlier 
an  Electric  Theatre  had  been  established  in  Los  Angeles  solely 
for  their  exhibition,  but  it  was  the  Nickelodeon  that  John  P. 
Harris  opened  in  McKeesport,  Pennsylvania,  just  a  decade  after 
movies  had  first  been  shown  that  started  their  real  boom.6  There 
were  perhaps  a  few  hundred  little  arcade  theatres  scattered 
throughout  the  country  in  1905,  but  the  nickelodeons  soon  num- 
bered as  many  thousands.  Three  hundred  had  opened  within 
the  year  in  New  York  alone,  a  writer  on  the  "Nickel  Madness* 
stated  in  Harpers  Weekly  in  1907.  Two  hundred  thousand  peo- 
ple—men, women,  and  children— were  flocking  daily  'through  the 
gaudy,  blatant  entrances.**6 


Tn  almost  every  case,"  reads  a  contemporary  description  of 
these  theatres,  "a  long,  narrow  room,  formerly  used  for  more 
legitimate  purposes,  has  been  made  over  into  what  is  popularly 
known  as  a  'nickelodeon/  At  the  rear  a  stage  is  raised.  Across  it 
is  swung  a  white  curtain.  Before  the  curtain  is  placed  a  piano, 
which  does  service  for  an  orchestra.  Packed  into  the  room  as 
closely  as  they  can  be  placed  are  chairs  for  the  spectators,  who 
number  from  one  hundred  to  four  hundred  and  fifty.  Directly 
above  the  entrance  is  placed  the  moving  picture  machine,  which 
flashes  its  lights  and  shadows  upon  the  white  curtain  dropped 
in  front  of  the  stage.  Many  of  the  machines  are  operated  by 
means  of  a  tank  filled  with  gasoline  or  some  similarly  inflamma- 
ble material.7'7 

The  same  story  was  being  repeated  not  only  in  every  other 
city  in  the  country  but  in  every  town  and  hamlet.  A  vast  public 
that  had  never  attended  the  theatre,  even  the  popular  "ten, 
twent,  thirt"  melodrama,  found  in  these  brief  twenty-minute 
shows  entertainment  which  had  never  before  been  within  its 

The  moving  picture  inevitably  had  caustic  critics.  The  nickel- 
odeons were  called  silly  and  time-wasting,  if  not  actually  per- 
nicious. Anthony  Comstock  found  in  the  darkened  theatres 
intimations  of  immorality  which  sent  anticipatory  shivers  up  his 
puritanic  spine.  Censorship  was  threatened  from  the  day  when 
social  reformers  in  Atlantic  City  protested  the  ^ypogastric 
rhythm"  of  a  peep-show  depiction  of  Dolorita's  Passion  Dance. 
"The  authorities  request  us  not  to  show  the  Houchi  Kouchi,"  the 
exhibitioner  sadly  wrote  the  producer,  "so  please  cancel  order 
for  new  Dolorita. . . ."  *  When  May  Irwin  and  John  C.  Rice 
indulged  in  the  kinetoscope's  first  kiss,  an  osculation  so  sensa- 
tional that  it  caused  nation-wide  excitement,  the  editor  of  a 
small  Chicago  magazine,  The  Chap  Book,  was  especially  dis- 
approving. Tn  a  recent  play  called  The  Widow  Jones,"  he  wrote, 
"you  may  remember  a  famous  kiss,  which  Miss  May  Irwin 
bestowed  on  a  certain  John  C.  Rice,  and  vice  versa.  Neither  par- 


ticipant  is  physically  attractive,  and  the  spectacle  of  their  pro- 
longed pasturing  on  each  other's  lips  was  hard  to  bear.  When 
only  life  size  it  was  pronounced  beastly.  But  that  was  nothing 
to  the  present  sight  Magnified  to  Gargantuan  proportions  and 
repeated  three  times  over  it  is  absolutely  disgusting. . . .  Such 
things  call  for  police  interference.  Our  cities  from  time  to  time 
have  spasms  of  morality,  when  they  arrest  people  for  displaying 
lithographs  of  ballet-girls;  yet  they  permit,  night  after  night,  a 
performance  which  is  definitely  more  degrading.  The  immorality 
of  living  pictures  and  bronze  statues  is  nothing  to  this.  The 
Irwin  kiss  is  no  more  than  a  lyric  of  the  Stock  Yards." 10 

A  decade  later  the  Chicago  Tribune  attacked  the  nickelodeons: 
"There  is  no  voice  raised  to  defend  the  majority  of  five  cent 
theatres,  because  they  cannot  be  defended.  They  are  hopelessly 
bad."11  On  Christmas  Eve  of  1908,  Mayor  McClellan  of  New 
York  revoked  five  hundred  and  fifty  licenses  because  of  objec- 
tions by  the  city's  pastors.  He  announced  that  future  permits 
would  be  granted  only  on  agreement  not  to  operate  on  Sundays 
and  not  to  show  pictures  tending  "to  degrade  the  morals  of  the 
community." 12  More  generally,  however,  these  show-places  were 
treated  with  casual  condescension,  dismissed  as  "a  harmless  di- 
version of  the  poor"  and  "an  innocent  amusement  and  a  rather 
wholesome  delirium."13  Even  among  the  people  in  the  new 
motion-picture  industry,  there  were  few  who  could  foresee  its 
expansion  or  recognize  the  importance  it  was  so  rapidly  assum- 
ing in  the  lives  of  the  multitude. 

Popular  amusements  had  more  generally  evolved  from  diver- 
sions that  were  originally  available  only  to  the  wealthy.  The 
theatre  in  America  had  at  first  been  primarily  class  entertain- 
ment, the  democratic  audiences  in  the  large  playhouses  of  the 
mid-nineteenth  century,  as  we  have  seen,  offering  a  marked 
contrast  to  the  more  exclusive  theatre  patronage  of  the  colonial 
period.  And  from  this  gradually  democratized  theatre  had  de- 
veloped the  even  more  popular  minstrel  shows,  burlesque,  and 
vaudeville.  But  the  first  appeal  of  moving  pictures  was  to  the 


masses  rather  than  the  classes.  They  were  cheap  and  popular 
from  the  very  beginning.  The  support  which  in  time  enabled 
them  to  raise  their  standard  of  entertainment  came  entirely 
from  their  nickel-paying  customers. 

Their  early  development  along  such  unashamedly  popular 
lines  was  not  by  any  means  inevitable.  It  was  in  part  due  to 
the  class  of  people  who  happened  to  take  them  over.  The  out- 
standing figures  were  Jewish  garment-workers  or  fur-traders  who 
bought  up  the  penny  arcades,  and  then  the  nickelodeons,  to 
merchandise  films  as  they  would  any  other  commodity.  And  their 
dependence  on  a  mass  market  led  to  their  continuing  to  place 
emphasis  on  quantity  rather  than  quality.  They  were  not  trou- 
bled by  an  artistic  conscience,  not  concerned  with  culture,  in 
promoting  this  profitable  business.  But  at  the  same  time  what 
might  superficially  be  dismissed  as  merely  shrewd  commercial 
tactics  represented  an  approach  to  the  development  of  this  new 
amusement  which  would  not  have  been  possible  in  any  other 
country.  It  reflected  a  democratic  concept  of  the  general  avail- 
ability of  popular  entertainment  which  was  thoroughly  Amer- 

In  European  countries,  notably  in  France,  where  pioneer  work 
in  moving  pictures  was  even  more  advanced  than  it  was  in  the 
United  States,  developments  followed  a  quite  different  course. 
There  was  nothing  comparable  to  the  nickelodeon  madness  of 
this  country.  Instead  of  appealing  to  a  mass  market,  the  movies 
essayed  the  r&le  of  sophisticated  entertainment.  Although  foreign 
producers  at  first  made  far  better  films,  their  efforts  to  maintain 
artistic  standards  lost  them  the  world-wide  market  that  American 
producers  eventually  built  up  because  their  pictures  had  a  uni- 
versal appeaL14  American  movies  would  never  have  become  the 
outstanding  popular  entertainment  they  are  to-day  had  foreign 
precedents  been  followed,  while  a  limited  market  would  also 
have  prevented  their  attaining  the  technical  perfection  which 
has  been  Hollywood's  real  contribution  to  this  world-wide 
amusement.  Moving  pictures  became  a  leading  feature  of  Amer- 

In  the  Days  of 
the  Kinetoscope 

A  kinetoscope,  phonograph, 
and  graphophone  arcade  in 
San  Francisco.  Courtesy  of 
the  Museum  of  Modern  Art 
Film  Library. 

The  Last  Word  in  Picture  Theatres 

Radio  City  Music  Hall,  New  York,  capacity  6,200,  offering  elaborate  ballet 

and  other  stage  presentations  with  feature  films.  Courtesy  of  Radio  City 

Music  Hall. 

Incunabula  of  the  Movies 

Left,  top  to  bottom:  scene  from  Cripple 
Creek  Barroom,  an  Edison  film  of  1898 
(Museum  of  Modern  Art  Film  Library); 
a  daring  scene  for  the  nickelodeons  about 
1910  (Culver  Service);  William  S.  Hart  in 
an  early  Western  (Culver  Service);  Mary 
Pickford  and  Owen  Moore  in  Caprice,  1913 
( Museum  of  Modern  Art  Film  Library). 

Right,  top  to  bottom:  scene  from  a  nickel- 
odeon gangster  film  (Culver  Service);  Mabel 
Normand  and  Mack  Sennett  in  Barney  Old- 
fieltfs  Eace  -for  a  Life,  1913  (Museum  of 
Modem  Art  Film  Library);  Charlie  Chaplin 
in  Between  Showers,  1915  (Culver  Service); 
Pearl  White  in  The  Perils  of  Pauline,  1914 
(Museum  of  Modern  Art  Film  Library). 


ican  recreation  because  they  represented  the  culmination  of  the 
democratizing  influences  in  the  field  of  urban  entertainment 
which  had  been  at  work  for  over  a  century* 

THE  FILMS  shown  in  the  nickelodeon  era  represented  a  striking 
advance  over  the  flickering  glimpses  of  dancing-girls  first  seen 
in  the  penny-arcade  kinetoscopes.  Practical  difficulties  were  hard 
to  surmount,  and  the  demand  for  pictures  often  outstripped  the 
ability  of  the  producers  to  supply  them,  but  there  was  steady 
progress.  With  the  filming  of  longer  pictures  at  the  close  of  the 
century,  incidents  (man  sneezing)  had  first  been  elaborated  into 
themes  (employer  flirting  with  stenographer).  Further  stretch- 
ing out  of  the  picture,  to  perhaps  a  thousand  feet,  then  gave  a 
universal  popularity  to  endless  variations  on  the  chase  motive. 
The  cowboy  hero  began  to  track  down  the  western  bad  man, 
the  city  sleuth  to  pursue  bank-robbers  and  hold-up  men.  In  the 
simplest  form  of  the  latter,  the  thief  was  chased  through  streets 
crowded  with  city  traffic  until  the  inevitable  collision  with  the 
fat  woman,  who  felled  him  with  her  umbrella  and  sat  on  him 
until  the  police  arrived.  The  only  rival  of  the  chase  in  this  early 
period  was  comic  relief.  The  more  subtle  uses  of  a  banana-peel, 
of  a  precariously  balanced  can  of  paint,  of  a  small  boy  with  a 
hose,  were  developed.  The  custard  pie  made  its  triumphant 

Prize-fights  and  religious  pictures  were  also  introduced,  two 
outstanding  events  in  motion-picture  progress  being  the  filming 
of  the  Corbett-Fitzsimmons  fight  and  the  Oberammergau  Pas- 
sion Play,  News  and  travel  had  a  wide  appeal.  For  Hale's  Tours 
of  the  World  the  theatre  was  darkened,  a  whistle  blew  to  an- 
nounce the  start  of  the  trip,  the  seats  began  to  sway  through  an 
ingenious  system  of  rockers  and  brakes,  and  on  the  screen  were 
flashed  scenes  of  some  distant  part  of  the  world  taken  from  the 
rear  platform  of  a  speeding  train.15 

In  1903  an  entirely  new  departure  was  made  with  the  filming 


of  The  Great  Train  Robbery.  Here  for  the  first  time  tibe  moving 
picture  attempted  to  tell  a  story,  and  the  success  of  the  experi- 
ment was  so  immediate  that  every  producer  turned  to  one-reel 
thrillers.16  The  old  melodramas,  especially  those  of  the  West, 
were  taken  over  from  the  popular  theatres.  By  1908  one  maga- 
zine writer  reported  that  the  magnates  of  the  nickelodeon  world 
were  paying  from  $15  to  $30  for  a  good  plot— "or  even  more"— 
while  these  pioneer  movie  actors  received  "all  the  way  from  $15 
to  $40  a  week." 17 

In  most  of  these  films  the  modern  movie-goer  would  still  have 
felt  something  strangely  lacking.  There  was  no  romance,  no  sex 
interest.  It  took  time  to  adapt  the  formula  of  boy-meets-girl 
to  the  screen,  but  when  the  motion  pictures  had  once  discovered 
love,  they  clung  to  it.  All  its  various  themes  were  developed— 
love  as  sentiment  and  love  as  biological  instinct.  If  the  latter 
aspect  of  the  phenomenon  was  to  await  fuller  exploitation  in  the 
1920's,  romance  had  won  a  place  for  itself  before  the  nickelodeon 
days  were  over.  Among  the  pictures  being  shown  in  Chicago  in 
1907  were  CupitFs  Barometer,  A  Seaside  Flirtation,  Beware,  My 
Husband,  The  Unwritten  Law,  The  Course  of  True  Love,  The 
Bigamist,  and  The  Gaieties  of  Divorce.18 

Culture  was  not  entirely  ignored  in  the  popularity  of  humor, 
thrills,  and  love.  Shakespeare  appeared  on  the  silver  screen.  The 
patrons  of  one  theatre  were  advised  that,  without  any  change  in 
the  five-cents  admission  charge,  they  could  see  "the  superb,  soul 
stirring,  heart  rending  tragedy,  Romeo  and  Juliet . . .  accom- 
panied with  an  intensely  tragic  lecture  by  Dr.  Lamberger." 

There  were  performances  of  other  plays  borrowed  from  the 
repertory  of  the  legitimate  stage.  "The  actor  has  a  formidable 
rival  in  the  kinetoscope,"  the  Theatre  Magazine  ominously  de- 
clared. "The  time  is  not  far  distant  when  we  will  see  along  Broad- 
way theatrical  agencies  specially  catering  to  the  manufacturers 
of  moving-picture  films.  The  Edison  Company  of  New  York,  the 
Vitagraph  Company  of  America,  the  Pathe  Freres  of  Paris,  each 
has  its  regular  stock  company.  These  men  and  women,  employed 


at  good  salaries,  are  richly  costumed  for  the  dramas,  and  the 
ballets  and  fairy  tales  and  the  dances  that  are  performed  before 
the  machine.  It  is  remarkable  to  what  extent  the  moving-picture 
manufacturer  will  go  in  his  anxiety  and  determination  to  obtain 
realism  in  his  kinetoscopic  play/*  19 

For  some  time  there  were  no  stars.  The  best  known  of  the  early 
screen  actresses,  Florence  Lawrence,  was  known  only  as  "The 
Biograph  Girl/'  2a  Not  until  the  closing  years  of  the  nickelodeon 
era  did  feature  films  and  feature  players  emblazon  their  starry 
path  across  the  cinematic  skies.  "Little  Mary"  films,  first  shown 
in  1909,  pointed  the  way.  They  enshrined  Miss  Pickf  ord  as  Amer- 
ica's sweetheart  and  fastened  the  star  system  upon  moving  pic- 
tures even  more  firmly  than  it  had  been  fastened  on  the  theatre. 
Every  audience,  Keokuk  or  New  York,  was  convulsed  by  the 
antics  of  John  Bunny;  held  its  breath  in  fear  and  trembling  as 
Broncho  Billy  or  Tom  Mix  thundered  across  the  western  prairies; 
and  became  easy  prey  (at  least  its  male  components)  to  the 
charms  of  Norma  Talmadge  and  the  Gish  sisters.21  The  nickelo- 
deons had  become  something  far  more  than  "flimsy  amusement 
for  the  mob/'  With  ten  thousand  theatres  playing  to  a  nation- 
wide audience  of  ten  million  weekly,  they  were  doing  a  greater 
volume  of  business  by  1910  than  all  the  legitimate  theatres, 
variety  halls,  dime  museums,  lecture  bureaus,  concert-halls,  cir- 
cuses, and  street  carnivals  combined.23 

BEFOBE  the  World  War  broke  out,  the  movies  had  graduated 
from  the  nickelodeon  era.  Improvements  in  the  technique  of 
photography,  transforming  the  flickering  films  of  the  early  days 
into  clear-cut,  distinct  pictures;  the  introduction  of  multireel 
films;  the  appearance  of  a  host  of  new  movie  stars,  and  more 
comfortable,  higher-priced  theatres  were  together  responsible 
for  a  new  day  in  which  the  triumphs  of  Biograph,  Essanay,  and 
the  Mutual  Film  Corporation  were  quickly  dimmed.  One  of  the 
new  films  pointing  the  way  was  a  comedy  Mack  Sennett  pro- 


duced  in  1914  with  Marie  Dressier  in  the  star  r6Ie— Tittle's 
Punctured  Romance.  With  Miss  Dressier  played  a  newcomer  to 
the  movies,  an  odd  little  man  with  baggy  pants,  a  queer  waddling 
walk,  and  a  mustache  which  was  soon  to  make  his  face  better 
known  than  that  of  any  one  else  in  the  world.23  Charlie  Chaplin 
was  an  immediate  success.  Within  two  years,  so  rapidly  were 
the  movies  now  forging  ahead,  in  no  small  part  owing  to  his 
own  inimitable  appeal,  he  had  accepted  a  fabulous  offer  of 
$670,000  for  a  year's  work.24 

Incidental  to  a  circulation  war  among  Chicago  newspapers, 
the  year  1914  also  saw  an  epidemic  of  moving-picture  serials 
which  proved  an  almost  greater  drawing-card  than  anything  else 
so  far  produced.  A  nation-wide  public  breathlessly  followed 
weekly  instalments,  released  both  in  the  newspapers  and  on  the 
screen,  portraying  the  thrilling  adventures  of  Dolly  of  the  Dailies, 
Lucile  Love,  or  the  mysterious  Florence  Gray.  The  most  famous 
of  all  the  serials  was  The  Perils  of  Pauline  with  Pearl  White: 

Poor  Pauline,  I  pity  poor  Pauline 

First  they  tie  her  to  a  tree 

Then  they  send  her  out  to  sea. . .  ,25 

Still  more  important,  marking  as  definite  an  advance  in  moving- 
picture  production  as  had  The  Great  Train  Robbery,  was  D.  W. 
Griffith's  filming  of  The  Birth  of  a  Nation.  This  masterpiece  of 
the  screen  (it  was  to  earn  in  all  more  than  $18,000,000)  proved 
once  and  for  all  that  American  movies  could  provide  entertain- 
ment which  neither  the  fashionable  nor  the  sophisticated  need 
scorn.  It  was  a  great  movie  because  it  broke  away  from  the  limi- 
tations of  the  stage  and  utilized  the  improved  motion-picture 
technique  as  had  no  previous  film.  Its  distant  scenes,  switch- 
backs, fade-outs,  and  close-ups  revealed  what  imagination  and 
intelligent  direction  could  really  do  with  this  new  medium.  The 
producers  were  able  to  give  a  first-run  showing  of  their  picture 
at  a  legitimate  theatre,  at  legitimate-theatre  prices.  Here  was  a 
far  departure  from  nickelodeon  days.  While  the  moving  picture 


remained  primarily  entertainment  for  the  urban  masses,  it  now 
began  to  reach  as  well  a  more  exacting  public.26 

The  growth  of  more  luxurious  and  higher-priced  theatres, 
slowly  driving  out  the  nickelodeons,  both  reflected  and  furthered 
this  development.  It  was  again  in  1914  that  Roxy  (Samuel  L. 
Rothafel)  took  over  managership  of  the  Strand,  on  New  York's 
Broadway,  immediately  setting  a  pace  in  showmanship  with 
which  theatres  in  other  cities  vainly  tried  to  keep  up.  The  day 
of  large,  elaborate,  and  expensively  furnished  moving-picture 
palaces,  with  pipe-organs  and  full  orchestras  replacing  the  jan- 
gling pianos  of  an  earlier  day,  had  arrived.  Even  neighborhood 
houses  and  small-town  movies  felt  this  stimulating  influence. 
Comfortable  surroundings  and  higher  admission  prices  were 
found  to  pay. 

Only  six  years  earlier,  Roxy  had  been  showing  films  in  tibe  un- 
used dance-hall  above  the  saloon  in  Forest  City,  Pennsylvania, 
where  he  worked  as  a  barkeep,  but  the  Strand  did  not  represent 
the  end  of  the  path  he  was  following  in  raising  the  exhibition  of 
movies  to  a  fine  art.  A  decade  later  another  theatre,  to  be  known 
as  Roxy's,  awed  even  New  York  with  its  gaudy  magnificence. 
This  Cathedral  of  Motion  Pictures  could  seat  six  thousand 
people  in  its  immense  auditorium,  and  squads  of  uniformed 
ushers  kept  in  order  another  two  thousand  waiting  in  the  lobbies 
for  seats.  With  its  musical  numbers  and  ballet-dancing,  the  show 
built  about  the  feature  picture  almost  rivaled  grand  opera.27 

THE  POST-WAK  YEAKS  f  ound  the  movies  scaling  new  heights  with 
a  reckless  abandon  which  reflected  the  pervasive  extravagance 
of  that  astounding  era.  Production  costs  sky-rocketfed.  A  million, 
two  million,  three  million,  four  million  dollars  (The  Birth  of  a 
Nation  had  cost  $100,000)  were  spent  on  a  single  spectacle.28 
The  ballyhoo  about  the  stars,  drawing  their  ten  and  twenty 
thousand  dollars  a  week  (Mary  Pickford  had  signed  a  million- 
dollar  contract  for  two  years'  work  as  early  as  1917  29  ),  would 


have  filled  even  P.  T.  Barnum  with  envy.  And  the  public  loved 
them  all  the  more  because  they  were  such  expensive  luxuries. 
A  society  in  which  money  played  such  an  important  r&le  basked 
in  their  reflected  glory. 

Hollywood  had  now  become  the  great  center  of  the  movie  in- 
dustry. Jesse  Lasky  had  pointed  the  way  when  in  1911  he  had 
.  rented  a  barn,  for  $200  a  week,  to  film  The  Squaw  Man  against 
a  western  background.30  The  advantages  of  California  sunshine 
had  soon  become  apparent,  and  the  rising  film  magnates  flocked 
to  the  Coast.  Here  the  movie  world  worked  and  played,  and  a 
host  of  inspired  press-agents  described  with  intoxicating  detail 
the  fabulous  life  that  centered  about  the  studios.  Movie  maga- 
zines carried  to  every  fan  the  fascinating,  and  sometimes  lurid, 
details  of  Hollywood's  loves,  marriages,  and  divorces,  The  stars 
became  the  arbiters  of  fashions,  the  molders  of  popular  folk- 
ways. Shopgirls  and  stenographers  worshiped  dutifully  at  the 
Hollywood  shrine.  Rudolph  Valentino,  the  passionate  sheik  of 
millions  of  love-lorn  maidens*  dreams,  died  in  1926.  The  crowd 
that  waited  to  see  him  lying  in  state  at  a  New  York  funeral 
parlor  stretched  for  eleven  blocks.31 

There  were  good  films  produced  in  these  years,  Mary  Pickford 
was  still  America's  sweetheart;  Constance  Talmadge  and  Lillian 
Gish  remained  favorites;  Gloria  Swanson  worked  havoc  with  her 
glamorous  charm;  Charlie  Chaplin  continued  to  lead  the  field 
as  the  screen's  greatest  actor  bar  none;  Harold  Lloyd  was  win- 
ning tremendous  popularity  for  his  comedy  r61es;  the  muscular 
Douglas  Fairbanks  was  a  certain  drawing-card. . . .  The  pictures 
of  these  stars  could  usually  be  counted  on,  and  there  were  many 
others—entertainment  which  from  every  point  of  view  marked  a 
progressive  advance  in  the  standards  of  the  motion-picture  in- 
dustry. But  for  every  Ben  Hur,  Covered  Wagon,  Thief  of  Bagdad, 
Gold  Rushy  Ten  Commandments,  Beau  Geste,  or  Three  Mus- 
keteers, scores  of  movies  exploited  the  more  blatant  features  of 
the  post-war  letdown  in  manners  and  morals.  Their  titles  were 
expressive.  In  one  small  city  there  were  being  simultaneously 


shown  during  a  single  week,  to  quote  the  findings  of  the  Lynds* 
survey  in  Middletown,  four  such  alluring  pictures  as  The  Daring 
Years,  Sinners  in  Silk,  Women  Who  Give,  and  The  Price  She 
Paid.  On  another  occasion  the  movie-goers  of  this  same  town 
could  choose  from  among  Rouged  Lips,  The  Queen  of  Sin,  and 
Name  the  Man— A  Story  of  Betrayed  Womanhood. 

'"Brilliant  men,  beautiful  jazz  babies,  champagne  baths,  mid- 
night revels,  petting  parties  in  the  purple  dawn,*'  advertised  the 
producer  of  Alimony,  "all  ending  in  one  terrific,  smashing  climax 
that  makes  you  gasp."  The  features  of  Flaming  Youth  were 
graphically  described:  "neckers,  petters,  white  kisses,  red  kisses, 
pleasure-mad  daughters,  sensation-craving  mothers,  by  an  author 
who  didn't  dare  sign  his  name;  the  truth,  bold,  naked,  sensa- 
tional." 32  The  cinematic  bite  was  never  as  bad  as  its  bark  ( after 
all,  The  Admirable  Crichton  was  billed  as  Male  and  Female), 
but  it  went  deep  enough  to  disturb  the  guardians  of  public 

This  was  particularly  true  in  considering  the  possible  effect 
upon  children,  who,  according  to  the  Payne  Fund  investigation, 
made  up  a  third  of  the  nation-wide  movie  audience.  Reformers 
could  not  close  their  eyes  to  advertisements  that  invited  the 
youth  of  the  land  to  learn  through  the  movies  "what  love  really 
means,  its  exquisite  torture,  its  overwhelming  raptures. . .  "  Sur- 
veys which  showed  that  the  love  theme  led  all  others,  followed 
closely  by  crime  and  sex;  that  the  heroes  of  the  films,  if  not 
"great  lovers,"  were  usually  gangsters  and  criminals,  led  to 
serious  agitation  for  official  censorship  that  might  be  more  effec- 
tive than  such  agencies  as  the  National  Board  of  Review.33 

When  threats  from  these  quarters  were  added  to  a  storm  of 
disapproval  aroused  by  the  revelation  of  a  number  of  scandals 
at  Hollywood,  the  motion-picture  industry  in  some  trepidation 
summoned  to  the  rescue  Will  H.  Hays,  a  politician  high  in  the 
councils  of  the  Republican  party.  As  czar  of  the  Motion  Picture 
Producers  and  Exhibitors  of  America,  he  issued  his  ultimatum: 
"We  must  have  toward  the  mind  of  a  child,  toward  that  clean 


and  virgin  thing,  that  unmarked  slate— we  must  have  toward  that 
the  same  sense  of  responsibility,  the  same  care  about  the  im- 
pressions made  upon  it,  that  the  best  teacher  or  the  best  clergy- 
man, the  most  inspired  teacher  of  youth  would  have."  At  the 
same  time  the  public  was  assured  that  the  movies  were  actually 
performing  a  tremendous  service  for  art,  education,  and  inter- 
national good-will.  Despite  a  little  temporary  overemphasis  on 
jazz  babies  and  red-hot  kisses,  Mr.  Hays  declared  that  the  in- 
dustry still  held  Service  as  its  Supreme  Purpose.34 

The  producers  began  to  exercise  some  restraint  in  their  pic- 
tures under  these  circumstances,  but  it  did  not  go  so  far  as  to 
threaten  the  box-office  appeal  of  their  offerings.  The  clean-up 
campaign  was  successful  in  averting  the  threat  of  further  censor- 
ship: only  six  states  (Pennsylvania,  Ohio,  Kansas,  Maryland, 
New  York,  and  Virginia)  took  legislative  action.  It  somewhat 
restored  the  prestige  of  the  industry.  Nevertheless  sex  dramas 
and  ultrasophisticated  comedies  continued  to  be  turned  out  in 
profusion,  and  there  was  still  a  marked  emphasis  on  portrayals 
of  the  supposed  fast  life  of  high  society.  Even  the  news  reel  did 
not  entirely  escape  post-war  influences,  with  its  inevitable  pic- 
ture of  bathing  beauties  in  one-piece  suits. 

There  was  no  question  that  the  public  liked  these  pictures. 
Ever  greater  crowds  nightly  packed  the  country's  twenty  thou- 
sand picture  houses,  from  Roxy's  to  the  cheapest  second-run 
village  hall.85  Men  and  women  from  every  walk  of  life,  but  es- 
pecially those  in  the  working  class,  found  here  the  vicarious 
excitement,  the  thrills,  the  heart  interest,  that  for  a  time  enabled 
them  to  escape  the  troubles  and  disappointments  of  their  own 
lives.  The  man  working  all  day  on  the  assembly-line  in  an  auto- 
mobile factory,  the  tired  homeworker  leaving  the  children  with 
a  neighbor  for  her  weekly  night  at  the  pictures,  did  not  want 
their  entertainment  on  any  higher  plane: 

Please  don't  uplift  me  when  I  go 
To  see  a  moving  picture  show. 


<TThe  movie  is  the  art  of  the  millions  of  American  citizens/'  an 
English  writer  in  the  Adelphi  discovered,  "who  are  picturesquely 
called  Hicks—  the  mighty  stream  of  standardized  humanity  that 
flows  through  Main  Street  ____  The  cinema  is,  through  and 
through,  a  democratic  art;  the  only  one."  Nor  would  this  com- 
mentator have  had  it  otherwise.  The  attempt  to  educate  the 
public  to  higher  standards  of  taste  except  through  the  movies* 
natural  evolution  in  response  to  a  gradually  maturing  public 
sentiment  was  pious  humbug.  Europe  had  failed  to  realize  the 
possibilities  of  the  moving  picture  and  was  hiding  behind  that 
"singularly  putrescent  hypocrisy  that  masquerades  as  'artistic 
culture/  "** 

So  THE  MOTION  PICTURE  in  the  1920's.  But  still  further  triumphs 
awaited  this  popular  amusement  which  had  so  marvelously 
evolved  from  the  vitascope  of  only  three  short  decades  earlier. 
In  1928  Warner  Brothers  released  a  new  film—  Al  Jolson  in  The 
Jazz  Singer*7  Science  had  brought  together  sight  and  sound: 
here  was  the  talkie.  There  had  been  several  prior  talking  pictures, 
but  the  great  success  of  The  Jazz  Singer  marked  the  turning- 
point.  Within  a  year  their  conquest  of  the  silent  film  was  com- 
plete. Sound  effects  were  hurriedly  inserted  in  such  films  as  could 
not  be  made  over,  vocal  numbers  were  added  when  possible,  and 
all-dialogue  pictures  produced  as  quickly  as  the  necessary  equip- 
ment could  be  obtained.  As  theatres  throughout  the  country  were 
wired  for  sound,  the  talkies  whipped  up  popular  appetite  for  the 
movies  as  never  before.  The  industry's  annual  receipts  rose  be- 
tween 1927  and  1929  to  the  tremendous  total  of  a  billion  dollars, 
and  weekly  attendance  jumped  to  an  estimated  110,000,000—  the 
equivalent  of  four-fifths  of  the  entire  population  going  to  a  show 
once  a  week  throughout  the  entire  year. 

The  depression  brought  about  a  drastic  decline  in  these  figures 
as  forced  economies  curtailed  all  private  spending.  For  a  time 
theatre  managers  had  to  watch  steadily  dwindling  audiences,  and 


the  industry  was  almost  overwhelmed  by  its  wildly  extravagant 
superstructure  of  fabulous  salaries  and  expensive  production 
costs.  In  a  frantic  attempt  to  attract  greater  patronage,  the  bars 
were  let  down  on  the  sex-drama  type  of  picture,  double  features 
were  inaugurated,  and  many  houses  resorted  to  bank  nights  and 
money  games— screeno,  lucky  numbers,  and  bingo.  These  enticing 
lures,  combined  with  partial  recovery  from  the  depression,  finally 
succeeded  in  reversing  the  downward  trend  in  admissions.  In 
1935  weekly  attendance  at  the  eighteen  thousand  theatres  that 
had  weathered  the  storm  was  estimated  at  77,000,000,  two  years 
later  it  had  risen  to  88,000,000,  and  by  the  close  of  the  decade  it 
was  again  approaching  the  100,000,000  mark.38 

The  revolution  wrought  by  sound  had  given  rise  to  a  new  gal- 
axy of  stars  and  introduced  new  types  of  pictures.  Many  of  the 
familiar  figures  of  the  movie  world  continued  in  the  talkies  then- 
success  in  silent  films;  a  few  staged  remarkable  come-backs  after 
a  period  of  eclipse  while  they  adapted  themselves  to  an  un- 
familiar technique.  Actors  and  actresses  of  the  legitimate  stage, 
who  had  often  scorned  the  pantomime  of  the  silent  film,  made 
their  hopeful  way  to  California  in  droves,  and  a  good  many  of 
them  remained.  Singers  and  dancers,  for  whom  the  talkies  rep- 
resented an  entirely  new  opportunity,  were  suddenly  in  great 
demand.  In  a  whirl  of  expanding  energy,  Hollywood  exploited 
all  the  means  at  its  disposal  to  reach  the  still  broader  market  for 
popular  entertainment  now  opening  up. 

The  diversity  of  pictures  that  sound  made  possible  was  the 
most  characteristic  feature  of  the  movies  in  the  19SO's.  They  were 
filling  the  democratic  r61e  that  the  theatre  itself  had  played  a 
century  earlier,  and  nightly  programs  often  showed  a  startling 
resemblance  to  those  of  the  popular  playhouses  of  that  earlier 
day.  As  well  as  straight  theatre,  the  movies  offered  a  modern 
equivalent  for  the  equestrian  melodramas,  elaborate  burlesques, 
and -variety  shows  which  had  once  had  such  wide  appeal.  At  first- 
run  houses  there  might  be  seen  in  quick  succession  a  classical 
play  filmed  with,  all  the  artistry  the  producers  now  commanded, 


an  extravagant  girl-and-music  show,  a  detective  thriller,  a  blood- 
and-thunder  western  melodrama,  a  sophisticated  comedy,  and  a 
slap-stick  farce.  A  single  show,  again  like  those  of  mid-century, 
invariably  included  one  of  these  main  features;  one  or  more 
specialities,  which  might  well  be  a  singing  or  dancing  act  (the 
news  reel  was  an  innovation  for  which  the  theatre  had  had  no 
parallel);  and  a  comedy  short,  which  took  the  place  of  the  nine- 
teenth-century afterpiece. 

The  feature  films  derived  from  plays  of  the  legitimate  stage 
ranged  from  Camille  to  Petticoat  Fever,  from  Pygmalion  to 
Idiot's  Delight.  Historical  romances  were  elaborately  produced: 
Disraeli  was  a  favorite  picture  one  year,  and  in  another  Cimarron, 
a  story  of  Oklahoma  pioneering.  Gone  With  the  Wind  was  a  sen- 
sation at  the  close  of  1939.  Well-known  classics  were  adapted 
to  the  screen,  with  such  notable  successes  as  Captains  Courageous 
and  David  Copperfield.  New  possibilities  opened  up  with  ani- 
mated cartoons.  The  "Silly  Symphonies"  had  a  great  success,  and 
one  of  the  most  popular  pictures  in  1937-38  was  the  cartoon 
fairy-tale  (photographed  in  color)  of  Snow  White  and  the  Seven 

The  reigning  stars  during  the  thirties  also  revealed  how  diverse 
moving-picture  entertainment  had  become.  Micky  Mouse  rivaled 
Greta  Garbo,  and  the  Dionne  quintuplets  competed  with  Clark 
Gable.  Lawrence  Tibbett  and  Zazu  Pitts,  Will  Rogers  and  Jean 
Harlow,  Adolphe  Menjou  and  Shirley  Temple,  Bette  Davis  and 
James  Cagney,  Mickey  Rooney  and  Vivien  Leigh,  each  had  an 
enthusiastic  following. 

THE  MOVIES'  SUCCESS  in  reaching  such  a  broad  public  had  long 
since  had  a  most  far-reaching  effect  on  other  forms  of  entertain- 
ment. From  nickelodeon  days  they  had  been  gradually  drawing 
off  the  patrons  of  the  popular  melodrama,  the  devotees  of  variety 
and  burlesque.  They  now  dominated  more  completely  than  ever 
the  whole  field  of  commercial  amusement.  The  people's  theatres 


were  either  closed  or  made  over  into  movie  palaces,  variety  shows 
were  so  reduced  in  number  that  the  old  two-a-day  vaudeville 
circuit  was  completely  disrupted,  and  the  doors  of  the  local 
opera  houses  (unless  they  too  were  wired  for  sound)  were  every- 
where boarded  up.  The  triumph  of  the  movies  over  the  popular 
theatre  was  complete. 

The  legitimate  stage  which  was  primarily  centered  in  New 
York—the  theatre  of  classical  drama,  sophisticated  comedy,  prob- 
lem play,  and  also  musical  revue— remained  a  vital  force.  It 
was  perhaps  more  important  in  some  ways  than  in  the  nineteenth 
century.  If  vaudeville  had  left  it  free— or  forced  it— to  go  its  own 
way  without  considering  entertainment  that  would  appeal  to 
the  urban  workers,  it  was  now  more  than  ever  the  arbiter  of  its 
own  fashions.  It  could  encourage  playwrights— Eugene  O'Neill 
was  the  country's  leading  dramatist— who  really  had  something  to 
say.  It  could  present  plays  dealing  with  social  problems,  and 
musical  comedy  that  deftly  satirized  the  current  scene.  The 
1930*s  saw  a  revival  of  stock  companies,  especially  summer  stock; 
other  cities  followed  the  lead  of  New  York  with  its  Theatre  Guild 
and  Group  Theatre;  the  International  Ladies  Garment  Workers' 
Union  staged  a  musical  skit  which  played  on  Broadway  and 
toured  the  country;  and  the  Federal  Theatre  Project  became  for 
a  time  an  active  force  in  the  theatrical  world.  Under  such  stim-  „ 
ulating  influences  there  also  sprang  up  a  mushroom  growth  of 
community  theatres  with  some  five  hundred  thousand  amateurs 
playing  before  an  estimated  annual  audience  of  fifteen  million.89 

There  were  impressive  signs  here  of  a  striking  revival  of  pop- 
ular interest  in  a  theatre  which  was  both  very  much  alive  and 
socially  conscious.  But  it  was  still  true  that  the  audience  it 
reached,  even  when  the  stock  companies  and  community  theatres 
were  taken  into  account,  remained  a  relatively  limited  one.  In 
numbers  it  could  not  in  any  way  compare  with  the  millions  who 
were  daily  streaming  past  moving-picture  box-offices  in  every 
city,  town,  and  village  in  the  land. 

Among  other  forms  of  amusement  that  felt  the  devastating 


effect  of  the  movies'  competition  were  the  circus  and  the  country 
fair.  The  farmer  who  could  drive  to  town  every  week  and  see  a 
motion  picture  no  longer  looked  forward  to  circus  and  fair  with 
the  eager  anticipation  of  the  day  when  they  represented  his 
one  taste  of  urban  entertainment.  He  often  stayed  away  al- 
together. The  traveling  carnival  and  the  amusement  park  also 
found  themselves  overshadowed,  while  such  simple  small-town 
diversions  as  lodge  night,  the  Grange  meeting,  and  the  church 
social,  although  by  no  means  extinguished,  could  hardly  match 
the  new  entertainment's  strident  appeal.  The  movies  had  become 
a  national  habit  from  which  no  element  in  the  population  was 
wholly  free.  Their  effect  on  social  life— the  home,  family  relation- 
ships, children— was  incalculable. 

The  concern  always  felt  over  their  influence  was  naturally 
heightened  by  these  developments.  Their  emphasis  on  the  ex- 
travagance and  artificialities  of  high  society,  to  say  nothing  of 
crime  and  sex,  was  believed  in  many  quarters  to  be  thoroughly 
unhealthy  for  the  body  politic.  With  the  letdown  in  standards 
during  the  depression  period,  public  opinion  again  began  to  de- 
mand some  reform,  and  the  protests  of  such  organizations  as  the 
Legion  of  Decency  finally  convinced  the  moguls  of  Hollywood 
that  they  would  have  to  put  their  house  in  order  or  have  it  done 
for  them.  Galvanized  into  action,  the  Hays  organization  under- 
took to  cooperate  with  the  reform  agencies  and  established  a 
Production  Code  which  it  was  prepared  to  enforce  throughout 
the  industry. 

This  code  set  up  certain  standards  governing  the  portrayal 
of  crime,  love-making,  exposure  of  the  human  body,  and  pro- 
fanity. There  were  to  be  no  more  scenes  of  seduction— "the  treat- 
ment of  bedrooms  must  be  governed  by  good  taste."  More  spe- 
cifically, as  revealed  in  the  correspondence  of  the  code's  admin- 
istrator, film  characters  were  not  to  kiss  savagely,  get  too  drunk, 
lie  around  in  their  underwear,  or  use  such  words  as  'louse"  and 
"floozy/*  One  producer  was  advised  to  delete  "the  business  of 
spraying  perfume  behind  the  ears,"  and  another  was  told  to  cut 


out  a  character's  stepping  on  a  cockroach,  on  the  ground  "that 
such  action  is  always  offensive  to  motion  picture  patrons."  Robin 
Hood  was  not  allowed  in  the  film  of  that  name  to  kick  the  sheriff 
in  the  stomach;  in  Dead  End  there  was  a  ban  upon  "the  action  of 
Spit  actually  expectorating/'  40 

Some  two  per  cent  of  the  film  output  escaped  this  self-imposed 
censorship  and  was  bootlegged  on  "the  sex  circuit,"  but  other- 
wise there  was  a  marked  improvement  after  1934.  Too  strict 
control,  many  critics  protested.  They  found  the  movies  so  com- 
pletely at  the  mercy  of  every  pressure  group  in  the  country  that 
they  did  not  dare  call  their  soul  their  own.  They  were  compelled 
to  tone  down  every  suggestion  of  reality.  Professor  Sawyer  Falk 
caustically  declared  that  he  "would  rather  take  a  chance  on 
sullying  the  great  American  public  rather  than  stultifying  it."  41 

ENTIRELY  apart  from  questions  of  morals  or  good  taste,  the 
movies  had  always  been  geared  to  the  lowest  common  denomi- 
nator of  intelligence  in  the  hope  of  reaching  as  broad  a  public  as 
possible.  With  somewhere  between  six  hundred  and  eight  hun- 
dred films  being  produced  annually,  by  far  the  greater  number 
relied  on  the  old  time-worn  formulas—  boy  meets  girl,  the  Cin- 
derella theme,  romance  set  against  an  exotic  background,  the 
chase,  and  familiar  comedy  situations.  Producers  could  not  afford 
to  echo  the  note  of  dissent  with  the  social  scene  which  was  such 
a  striking  characteristic  of  the  1930's,  or  to  deal  realistically  with 
any  of  the  problems  growing  out  of  the  New  Deal.  There  were 
signs  of  a  less  conservative  attitude  (They  Won't  Forget,  I  Am 
a  Fugitive  pom  a  Chain  Gang,  and  occasionally  The  March  of 
Time)  at  the  very  close  of  the  decade,  but  the  movies  in  general 
steered  a  safe  course.  How  far  the  films  were  being  used  as  propa- 
ganda was  another  point  sometimes  raised.  Charles  and  Mary 
Beard  asked  some  pertinent  questions  in  America  in  Midpassage 
as  to  the  r6Ie  the  movies  played  in  promoting  war  sentiment 
through  their  big  navy  and  aviation  films.42 


Their  influence  on  our  civilization  could  not  be  ignored.  But 
over  against  the  fears  of  those  who  felt  it  wholly  pernicious  could 
be  set  increasing  evidence  that  there  were  more  "good"  films  than 
ever  before.  Many  pictures  told  with  real  sensitivity  and  feeling 
stories  well  worth  telling,  depicted  historical  events  with  a  valid- 
ity which  carried  conviction,  or  presented  scenes  of  stirring 
beauty  with  musical  accompaniments  at  which  even  the  cultured 
could  not  cavil.  The  Beards  themselves  had  no  quarrel  with  The 
Story  of  Pasteur,  The  Life  of  Emile  Zola,  and  The  Good  Earth. 

Admitting  that  the  movies  were  entertainment — not  primarily 
a  medium  for  culture,  or  education,  or  propaganda— it  was  clear 
that  the  level  of  such  entertainment  could  not  rise  very  high  if 
left  wholly  dependent  upon  the  desires  ( as  interpreted  by  Holly- 
wood) of  a  movie-going  public  which  included  all  elements 
among  the  American  people.  A  natural  consequence  of  the 
democracy  of  this  nation-wide  audience  was  a  lag  between  pos- 
sible artistic  and  cultural  standards  and  those  which  the  public 
would  support.  But  in  considering  the  trend  of  their  develop- 
ment, not  only  in  comparison  with  the  films  being  shown  in  the 
nickelodeon  era  but  against  the  background  of  the  popular  en- 
tertainment of  the  nineteenth  century  they  had  so  largely 
replaced,  the  movies  at  the  close  of  the  1930's  showed  many  en- 
couraging signs  that  they  were  beginning  to  realize  their  true 


EABLY     HISTORY     OF     THE     AUTOMOBILE,     IN     SO     FAB     AS 

A  recreation  is  concerned,  could  hardly  have  afforded  a  more 
striking  contrast  to  that  of  the  movies.  There  were  in  all  in  this 
country  some  three  hundred  horseless  carriages—  gasoline  bug- 
gies, electrics,  steam  cars—  when  moving  pictures  were  first 
thrown  on  a  screen  in  1895.  When  John  P.  Harris  opened  his 
pioneer  moving-picture  theatre  a  decade  later,  there  were  almost 
eighty  thousand.1  But  though  the  early  period  of  automobiling 
coincided  so  exactly  with  the  years  of  the  nickelodeon  madness, 
the  automobile  and  the  movies  reached  entirely  different  groups 
of  people. 

The  movies  were  for  the  masses,  the  automobile  for  the  classes. 
The  distinction  could  not  have  been  more  pronounced.  The  gen- 
eralization may  be  hazarded  that  none  of  that  vast  nickelodeon 
audience  ever  even  hoped  to  own  or  drive  a  car,  while  very  few 
of  the  little  band  of  wealthy  automobile  owners  would  have 
condescended  to  go  to  the  movies.  The  first  decade  of  the  century 
witnessed  a  remarkable  expansion  in  these  two  new  forms  of 
amusement,  but  it  was  then  impossible  to  foresee  that  higher 
standards  of  entertainment  would  soon  draw  all  classes  of  society 
into  the  moving-picture  theatres  and  that  the  reduced  costs  of 
operating  an  automobile  would  in  time  enable  all  the  world  to 
motor.  It  was  not  until  after  1920  that  the  movies  and  motoring 
could  be  grouped  together  as  popular  forms  of  recreation  in 
which  no  class  barriers  were  recognized. 



THE  BESTBicnoN  of  motoring  to  the  wealthy  in  the  early  period 
of  the  automobile  was  not  primarily  due  to  the  cost  of  the  cars. 
Although  current  prices  ran  as  high  as  $7,000,  runabouts  could 
be  bought  for  under  $500  and  Ford  touring-cars  for  $780  as  early 
as  1911.2  This  was  not  cheap  from  the  workingman's  point  of 
view,  but  what  really  made  touring  such  an  exclusive  prerogative 
of  the  rich  was  the  expense  of  upkeep  and  operation.  The  lowest 
estimate  in  a  magazine  series  appearing  in  1907  was  $358  for  a 
six-months'  season  in  which  the  car-owner  drove  3,370  miles. 
New  tires  cost  $100,  minor  parts  $96,  new  parts  and  work  on  the 
engine  $70,  and  gasoline  $45.  A  more  typical  estimate  for  an 
expensive  car  set  the  total  for  a  year's  operating  expenses  at 
$3,628.  A  number  of  extras  were  included  in  this  figure:  a  cape 
top  and  glass  front,  a  speedometer,  an  exhaust-blown  horn,  and 
an  allowance  ($264)  for  motoring  clothes.3  Nevertheless  it  graph- 
ically reflected  the  continual  drain  for  repairs  and  new  tires 
which  featured  all  pre-war  motoring.  The  year's  upkeep  of  a  car 
appears  generally  to  have  come  very  close  in  these  days  to  its 
original  cost. 

The  new  "automobility"  came  in  for  its  full  share  of  jokes  and 
jibes,  and  also  bitter  denunciation,  as  the  common  man  watched 
the  newly  rich  ride  proudly  through  the  gates  of  society  in  their 
Cadillacs,  Locomobiles,  Packards,  and  Fierce-Arrows.  Life  paro 
died  "The  Charge  of  the  Light  Brigade"  in  1904: 

Half  a  block,  half  a  block, 

Half  a  block  onward, 
All  in  their  automobiles, 

Rode  the  Four  Hundred. 
^Forward!'  the  owners  shout, 

'Racing  car!'  'Runabout!' 

Into  Fifth  Avenue 

Rode  the  Four  Hundred.4 

Some  three  years  later,  Woodrow  Wilson,  then  president  of 
Princeton  University,  gravely  warned  that  "nothing  has  spread 
socialistic  feeling  in  this  country  more  than  the  use  of  tihe  auto- 


mobile."  He  declared  that  to  the  worker  and  the  farmer  the 
motorist  was  "a  picture  of  the  arrogance  of  wealth,  with  all  its 
independence  and  carelessness." 5 

An  expensive  amusement  not  only  summed  up  the  general 
opinion  of  the  automobile  in  these  pioneer  years,  but  appeared 
to  be  all  that  could  be  expected  of  it.  It  was  a  plaything  for  the 
rich.  Motoring  and  automobile  racing  took  a  place  in  the  lives 
of  wealthy  sportsmen  which  had  formerly  been  held  by  coaching; 
it  was  regarded  as  a  sport  comparable  to  yachting  or  riding  to 
hounds.  Operating  expenses  and  the  inevitability  of  breakdowns 
for  long  shut  out  any  idea  of  the  automobile's  more  general  use- 
fulness, either  as  a  means  of  transportation  in  the  business  and 
commercial  world  or  as  a  popular  recreation  for  the  people  as  a 
whole.  As  late  as  1911  Charles  J.  Glidden  could  single  out  as  the 
primary  effect  of  the  advent  of  the  automobile  that  it  had  "com- 
pletely revolutionized  the  life  of  well-to-do  people." 6 

The  sport  of  motoring  was  hazardous  and  exciting  as  well  as 
costly  in  the  first  decade  of  the  century.  A  long  course  of  instruc- 
tion was  necessary  to  learn  how  to  drive,  the  schools  providing 
preliminary  practice  in  gear-shifting  and  steering  behind  dummy 
wheels  before  the  pupil  was  allowed  to  venture  on  the  road.  He 
was  also  taught  something  about  the  engine,  how  to  make  the 
necessary  repairs  and  replace  parts.  Many  car-owners  became 
adept  at  tinkering  with  the  engine,  but  this  phase  of  motoring 
was  not  always  considered  fun.  'The  nerve  strain  of  working  over 
those  jarring  parts,  if  you  have  no  mechanical  instinct,"  wrote 
one  harassed  motorist,  "would  take  away  all  the  pleasure  of 
ownership." 7  One  of  the  most  popular  automobile  jokes  was  that 
of  the  car-owner's  ward  in  the  insane  asylum.  A  visitor  one  day 
was  surprised  to  find  it  apparently  empty.  The  physician  in 
charge  explained  that  the  patients  were  all  under  the  cots  fixing 
the  slats. 

Vast  preparations  had  to  be  made  for  a  day's  run,  let  alone 
for  the  vacation  tours  which  were  becoming  popular  as  the  auto- 
mobile very  gradually  became  a  more  reliable  vehicle.  Among 

New  Toys  for 
the  Wealthy 

An     advertisement 

in  Collier's  Weekhj, 


The  Thomas  6  CyL,  70  H.  P. 

The  most  Powerful,  Complete  and  Luxurious  Stock  Car  Made 

— complete  with  glass  front,  top  and  speedometer. 

^FlE$ls  EkTHC^Jf?I^^  " 

Cars  and  Costumes  of  Pre-War  Days 

CiJver  Service. 


the  items  of  extra  equipment  necessary  were  a  full  set  of  tools, 
elaborate  tire-changing  apparatus,  a  pail  of  water  for  overheated 
brakes,  extra  spark-plugs,  tire  chains  for  muddy  roads,  and  a 
"rear  basket  with  concealed  extra  gasoline  supply/*  Clothes  also 
were  important.  In  this  period  the  cars  were  all  open,  many  of 
them  without  tops  or  even  wind-shields,  and  the  roads  were  in- 
credibly dusty.  The  motorist  had  to  be  prepared  for  all  contin- 
gencies, laden  down  with  dusters,  raincoats,  umbrellas,  and 
goggles.  A  single-breasted  duster  with  eton  collar  and  three  patch 
pockets  was  recommended  for  mild  weather,  but  men  were  fur- 
ther advised  to  have  wind  cuffs  to  be  attached  to  their  coat 
sleeves,  caps  with  visors  and  adjustable  goggles,  and  leggings  for 
repair  work.8 

For  women  the  problem  of  the  proper  motoring  clothes  was 
even  more  important.  One  had  to  be  fashionable,  but  everyday 
styles  were  hardly  adapted  to  exposure  to  sun,  wind,  and  dust. 
Bell-shaped  ruffled  skirts  trailed  the  ground,  and  large  picture 
hats  were  fastened  upon  imposing  pompadours  with  a  multitude 
of  gleaming  hat-pins.  To  motor,  all  this  fine  array  had  to  be 
carefully  protected.  Long  linen  dusters  were  worn,  lap-robes 
tucked  securely  about  the  legs,  and  hats  tied  down  with  long 
veils  knotted  tightly  under  the  chin.9 

In  1907  a  hundred  miles  was  considered  an  excellent  day's  run. 
There  had  to  be  a  lot  of  "sprinting  at  thirty  miles  an  hour"  to  get 
over  such  a  long  distance.  The  average  speed  was  a  good  deal 
lower,  but  fast  driving  had  already  become  a  problem*  'The 
effect  of  speedy  motoring,"  commented  one  automobilist,  "is  that 
of  drinking  several  cups  of  strong  coffee/*10  and  the  pre-war 
generation  appears  to  have  had  a  strong  urge  to  experience  this 
intoxicating  sensation.  To  control  these  maddened  motorists,  who 
frightened  horses,  upset  carriages,  and  more  and  more  frequently 
maimed  and  killed  other  users  of  the  roads  while  they  escaped 
uninjured,  strict  speeding  regulations  were  adopted  in  a  number 
of  states.  The  law  in  New  York  provided  a  maximum  of  ten  miles 
an  hour  in  congested  areas,  fifteen  miles  an  hour  in  the  outlying 


sections  of  cities  and  towns,  and  twenty  miles  an  hour  in  the  open 

Driving  at  night  was  not  a  usual  practice,  but  one  enthusiast 
contributed  a  special  article  on  midnight  motoring  to  the  October, 
1907,  issue  of  Country  Life.  He  painted  a  glowing  picture—  the 
darkness  pierced  by  the  flaming  arrow  of  the  acetylene  headlight, 
the  road  opening  up  like  a  titanic  ribbon  spun  solely  for  the 
motorist's  pleasure,  the  muffled  roar  of  the  motor  in  the  deep 
silence  of  the  night.  It  was  a  wonderful  sensation  as,  with  hands 
gripping  the  seats,  hair  blown  back  by  the  rushing  wind,  the  car 
plunged  "into  that  big  mysterious  dark  always  just  ahead,  always 
just  beyond  reach."  One  word  of  warning  was  given  about  night 
running.  Should  a  carriage  be  encountered,  the  motorist  should 
be  ready  to  stop  at  once  and  attempt  to  calm  the  frightened 
horses  by  throwing  his  lap-robe  (an  essential  article  of  equip- 
ment) over  the  headlights.12 

Suggestions  for  driving  advised  care  not  only  for  the  safety 
of  the  highway,  but  to  combat  the  prejudice  that  the  automobile 
still  aroused  among  non-motorists.  The  horn  should  be  used 
gingerly  because  a  sudden  squeeze  was  frightening  to  both  horses 
and  pedestrians;  headlights  should  be  blown  out  on  city  streets; 
persons  having  trouble  with  their  horses  should  be  treated  cour- 
teously, "especially  ladies  who  are  apt  to  be  rather  helpless  in 
such  cases/'  A  final  injunction  urged  special  consideration  for 
pedestrians.  If  they  were  forced  to  dodge  a  speeding  car,  they 
were  very  apt  to  describe  it  later,  to  the  ill  repute  of  all  motoring, 
as  "one  of  those  (adjective)  automobiles/'13 

BY  1914  the  motor  car  had  passed  well  beyond  this  pioneer  stage. 
There  were  some  two  million  in  the  country,  and  mass  produc- 
tion was  enabling  the  manufacturer  to  turn  out  cars  that  could  be 
purchased  for  as  little  as  $400.  More  important,  the  automobile 
had  been  so  greatly  improved  that  constant  breakdowns  were  no 
longer  the  invariable  rule  of  the  road,  and  it  was  possible  to  op- 


erate  a  car  without  the  prohibitive  expenses  of  earlier  days.  Roads 
also  were  becoming  immeasurably  better.  An  advertisement  of 
one  second-hand  car  gave  as  the  reason  for  sale  that  its  owner 
had  motored  from  Illinois  and  could  not  return  because  of  bad 
roads,  but  the  constant  pressure  of  motorists  was  beginning  to 
take  effect  in  improved  highways,  macadam  and  even  concrete, 
throughout  the  country. 

Henry  Ford  had  played  a  leading  part  in  making  the  auto- 
mobile more  easily  available  to  a  broader  public.  His  Model  T 
was  the  most  familiar  of  all  makes,  with  half  a  million  of  them  on 
the  road  before  the  World  War.  Hundreds  of  "tin  Lizzie"  jokes 
showed  the  place  they  had  won  in  the  country's  life.  Do  you 
know  what  Ford  is  doing  now?  was  a  question  the  wary  learned 
to  ignore.  But  the  answers  were  legion:  enclosing  a  can-opener 
with  every  car  so  the  purchaser  could  cut  out  his  own  doors; 
painting  his  cars  yellow  so  that  dealers  could  hang  them  in 
bunches  and  retail  them  like  bananas;  providing  squirrels  to  re- 
trieve any  nuts  that  might  rattle  off Another  story  was  that 

of  the  Illinois  farmer  who  stripped  the  tin  roof  off  his  barn,  sent 
it  to  the  Ford  factory,  and  received  a  letter  saying  that  "while 
your  car  was  an  exceptionally  bad  wreck,  we  shall  be  able  to 
complete  repairs  and  return  it  by  the  first  of  the  week." 14 

The  ubiquity  of  the  Ford,  as  well  as  of  the  Ford  joke,  clearly 
indicated  that  the  automobile  had  completely  passed  through 
that  stage  when  it  could  be  considered  a  plaything  for  the  rich 
or  an  instigator  of  socialism.  It  was  reaching  the  American  public 
—the  workingman  and  the  farmer.  And  throughout  the  period 
of  the  World  War  this  general  process  of  diffusion  went  on  at  an 
increasingly  rapid  rate.  The  two  million  cars  of  1914  had  become 
nine  million  by  1921.  In  another  five  years  this  number  had 
doubled.15  So  great  was  public  interest  in  the  automobile  that 
when  Ford  brought  out  a  new  car  in  1927,  the  formal  unveiling 
of  the  Model  A  attracted  almost  as  much  attention  as  a  presiden- 
tial inauguration.  Thousands  flocked  to  the  Ford  show-rooms  in 
Detroit,  the  mounted  police  had  to  be  called  out  in  Cleveland, 


a  mob  stormed  the  exhibition  at  Kansas  City,  and  a  million 
people  fought  to  get  a  glimpse  of  the  new  car  at  the  Ford  head- 
quarters in  New  York.16 

Succeeding  years  saw  a  still  further  increase  in  the  number 
of  passenger  cars  on  the  road.  In  the  1930's  the  total  rose  to  over 
twenty-five  million—  an  automobile  for  more  than  two-thirds  of 
the  families  throughout  the  country.17  Such  far-reaching  improve- 
ments had  been  made  that  there  was  now  almost  no  resemblance 
to  the  horseless  carriage  of  forty  years  earlier.  The  modern  car 
was  long  and  low,  showing  a  definite  trend  toward  stream-lining, 
and  the  closed  sedan  had  almost  entirely  replaced  the  open 
touring-car.  It  could  be  operated  easily  and  was  as  nearly  fool- 
proof as  human  ingenuity  could  make  it.  It  was  equipped  with 
such  an  array  of  conveniences—from  self-starters  to  heaters—that 
one  could  motor  with,  a  degree  of  comfort  the  pioneer  automo- 
bilists  could  not  possibly  have  imagined.  Winter  motoring—  cer- 
tainly for  short  trips—  was  almost  as  feasible  as  summer  outings. 
Should  anything  go  wrong,  the  uniformity  of  popular  models 
made  repairs  comparatively  easy,  but  motorists  could  count  so 
definitely  on  the  dependability  of  their  cars  that  they  hardly 
knew  what  was  under  the  hood.  It  was  seldom  necessary  even 
to  change  tires,  so  greatly  had  their  durability  and  potential 
mileage  been  increased.  Everyone  could  drive  a  car,  and  every 
one  did.  In  the  1890*s  the  tremendous  vogue  for  the  bicycle  had 
given  the  impression  that  America  was  a  nation  on  wheels.  Half 
a  century  later  this  appeared  to  be  even  more  true—  but  on  auto- 
mobile wheels. 

THE  SOCIAL  CHANGES  wrought  by  the  automobile  had  affected 
every  phase  of  national  life,  Transportation  was  revolutionized, 
the  isolation  of  the  country  broken  down.  No  single  development 
ever  had  a  more  far-reaching  effect  in  speeding  up  the  tempo  of 
modern  living.  The  entire  face  of  the  country  was  criss-crossed 
with  highways  of  macadam  and  cement,  lined  with  filling-sta- 


tions,  lunch-rooms,  curio  stores,  antique  shops,  hot-dog  stands, 
tourist  camps,  and  signboards.  It  was  the  age  of  the  automobile. 

Nowhere  were  the  changes  more  far-reaching  than  in  popular 
recreation.  At  least  one-quarter  of  the  use  of  automobiles  was 
estimated  by  the  American  Automobile  Association  to  be  for 
pleasure— touring  and  holiday  driving.  Equally  important  was 
the  extent  to  which  it  was  used  as  an  adjunct  to  pleasure,  as  a 
means  of  transportation  from  the  country  to  the  amusements  of 
the  city  and  from  the  city  to  the  sports  and  outdoor  activities  of 
the  country.  For  countless  millions  the  automobile  brought  the 
near-by  golf-course,  tennis-courts,  or  bathing-beach  within  prac- 
tical reach.  It  opened  up  the  way  for  holiday  picnics  in  the  coun- 
try and  for  week-end  excursions  to  fish  or  hunt.  It  immensely 
stimulated  the  whole  outdoor  movement,  making  camping  pos- 
sible for  throngs  of  people  to  whom  woods,  mountains,  and 
streams  were  formerly  totally  inaccessible.  It  provided  a  means 
of  holiday  travel  for  a  people  whose  migratory  instinct  appeared 
insatiable,  making  touring  one  of  the  most  popular  of  all  amuse- 

The  delights  of  a  week-end  or  Sunday  motor  excursion  into 
the  country  were  spread  glowingly  over  the  pages  of  popular 
magazines  in  the  advertisements  published  by  manufacturers  of 
popular  models.  The  automobile  was  "the  enricher  of  life/'  A  mid- 
western  bank  president  was  quoted  in  one  two-page  spread  in 
the  Saturday  Evening  Post  as  declaring  that  "a  man  who  works 
six  days  a  week  and  spends  the  seventh  on  his  own  doorstep 
certainly  will  not  pick  up  the  extra  dimes  in  the  great  thorough- 
fare of  life."  Another  advertisement  invited  the  car-owner  to 
make  the  most  of  the  next  sunny  Sunday— "tell  the  family  to 
hurry  the  packing  and  get  aboard— and  be  off  with  smiles  down 
the  nearest  road— free,  loose,  and  happy— bound  for  green  won- 
derlands." 19  The  suggestion— which  innumerable  families  took— 
aroused  the  resentment  of  those  religious  elements  in  the  popu- 
lation which  believed  church-going  rather  than  motoring  the  way 
to  spend  the  day,  but  the  automobile  finally  completed  the  grad- 


ual  transformation  of  the  Sabbath  from  a  day  of  rest  and  worship 
to  one  primarily  devoted  to  recreation. 

The  pleasures  of  vacation  touring  were  depicted  with  even 
more  fulsome  praise  of  the  joys  of  the  open  road.  Every  section 
of  the  country  invited  the  growing  army  of  motorists  to  visit  it. 
Chambers  of  commerce,  resort  proprietors,  and  oil  companies 
united  in  publicizing  the  attractions  of  seashore  and  mountain. 
New  England  was  a  summer  vacation  land,  and  Florida  a  pop- 
ular winter  resort.  The  national  parks  and  forests,  especially 
those  of  the  West,  drew  hordes  of  visitors.  In  1910  they  had  a 
few  hundred  thousand;  the  total  in  1935  was  thirty-four  million.20 
Almost  all  of  them  came  by  automobile.  There  was  an  over- 
whelming response  to  the  slogan  See  America  First  as  the  new 
generation  took  to  the  road. 

Accommodations  to  meet  the  needs  of  these  motorists  along 
the  way  sprang  up  quickly.  The  tourist  camp  became  an  insti- 
tution. Some  of  them  provided  comfortable  overnight  cabins  with 
all  modern  conveniences;  others  simply  provided  facilities  for 
automobile  campers.  Florida  probably  had  more  of  them  than 
any  other  state.  In  1925  it  reported  178  with  accommodations 
for  six  hundred  thousand  people.21  For  the  more  fashionable 
there  were  hotels  and  inns—there  was  a  rapid  growth  of  them 
in  these  years— but  the  majority  of  tourists  had  little  money  to 
spend.  An  overnight  cabin  or  a  place  where  they  could  stretch 
a  tarpaulin  from  the  side  of  the  car,  cooking  their  own  supper 
at  a  communal  fireplace,  was  all  that  most  of  them  demanded. 

In  the  late  1930's  the  trailer  made  its  appearance  as  still  an- 
other boon  for  those  with  migratory  instincts.  The  westerner 
whose  forebears  had  crossed  the  prairies  in  a  journey  of  several 
months  trekked  back  over  the  old  route,  in  a  fraction  of  the 
time,  with  this  twentieth-century  equivalent  of  the  covered 
wagon  coupled  to  his  car.  The  number  of  these  vehicles 
increased  rapidly;  enthusiasts  saw  for  them  a  future  comparable 
to  that  of  the  automobile  itself.  In  the  bright  dawn  of  trailer 
camping,  about  1936,  it  was  wildly  stated  that  there  would  be 


a  million  of  them  on  the  road  within  a  year  and  that  a  decade 
would  see  half  the  population  on  wheels.  Such  fantasies  proved 
illusory;  perhaps  one  hundred  thousand  passenger  trailers,  rather 
than  a  million,  was  the  total  later  estimated  by  Trailer  Travel.22 

Some  seven  hundred  manufacturers  had  rushed  into  the  field. 
Small  machine-shops,  bicycle  manufacturers,  out-of-work  car- 
penters, hoped  they  had  discovered  the  bootstrap  to  pull  them 
out  of  the  depression.  But  the  boom  faded  away  as  annual 
production  sought  levels  corresponding  to  the  real  demand.  For, 
apart  from  the  expense,  new  obstacles  to  further  expansion 
sprang  up  in  strict  traffic  regulations  and  bans  on  trailer  parking. 
Municipalities  did  not  take  kindly  to  the  home-on-wheels  which 
could  escape  taxes  and  defy  housing  rules.  Nevertheless  in  a 
more  limited  field  the  trailer  provided  a  new  means  of  touring 
which  had  wide  appeal,  becoming  throughout  the  country  a 
familiar  symbol  of  the  life  of  the  highway.  Trailer  camps  were 
established  at  the  grounds  of  New  York's  World  Fair,  at  Florida 
winter  resorts,  in  the  national  parks  of  the  Far  West. 

An  important  consequence  of  touring  was  the  growth  of  a 
travel  industry  of  immense  proportions.  In  1935  the  American 
people  were  reported  to  have  spent  almost  five  per  cent  of  their 
total  income  on  vacation  expenses.  More  than  half  this  money, 
or  about  $1,330,000,000,  represented  automobile  operating  ex- 
penses that  could  be  fairly  allocated  to  the  pleasure  use  of  cars.23 
Here  was  a  sum  greater  than  all  moving-picture  admissions, 
greater  than  the  cost  of  any  other  form  of  recreation  whatsoever. 
Add  to  it  all  the  other  expenses  of  motoring— hotels,  tourist 
camps,  restaurants— and  some  idea  may  be  gained  of  the  im- 
portance of  the  industry  that  catered  to  the  motorists*  needs.  Half 
a  century  earlier  there  had  been  nothing  comparable  to  automo- 
bile touring;  it  had  now  become  an  economic  as  well  as  social 
phenomenon  of  the  utmost  significance. 

Just  what  a  car  meant  in  the  lives  of  countless  working-class 
families,  entirely  apart  from  the  vogue  for  touring  among  those 
more  likely  to  have  summer  vacations,  was  graphically  revealed 


in  the  comments  made  by  women  interviewed  in  the  course  of 
the  Middletown  survey.  The  car  is  the  only  pleasure  we  have/* 
one  of  them  stated;  another  declared,  111  go  without  food  be- 
fore 111  see  us  give  up  the  car";  and  a  mother  of  nine  children 
said  she  would  "rather  do  without  clothes  than  give  up  the  car."  24 
An  automobile  was  generally  ranked  higher  than  ownership  of' 
one's  home,  before  a  telephone,  electric  lighting,  or  a  bathtub. 
The  experience  of  the  depression  widely  confirmed  the  general 
willingness  to  sacrifice  almost  everything  else  in  order  to  keep 
a  car.  Generally  paid  for  on  the  instalment  plan,  it  was  the  last 
thing  to  go.  One  of  the  steadiest  products  on  the  market  was 
gasoline,  bought  by  countless  working-class  families  heroically 
economizing  on  food  and  clothes  to  be  able  to  pay  for  their  Sun- 
day spin  into  the  country. 

In  no  other  country  in  the  world  had  motoring  for  pleasure 
developed  on  any  such  grandiose  scale.  Everywhere  else  the 
use  of  the  automobile  for  recreation  was  largely  limited,  as  it 
had  been  in  the  early  days  in  this  country,  to  the  more  wealthy 
classes.  Only  in  the  United  States  had  a  higher  standard  of 
living  and  mass  production  made  possible  such  general  owner- 
ship. A  car  for  his  family,  to  be  used  primarily  for  pleasure, 
was  accepted  as  a  valid  ambition  for  every  member  of  the  Amer- 
ican democracy. 

THE  EFFECT  of  the  automobile  on  recreational  habits  was  often 
decried  in  the  1930*s:  the  substitution  of  a  passive  amusement 
for  something  more  active;  standardization  and  regimentation; 
the  moral  problem  of  the  parked  sedan  and  roadside  tourist 
camp.  The  Sunday-afternoon  drive  was  devastatingry  described 
—the  crowded  highways,  traffic  jams,  and  accidents;  the  car  win- 
dows tightly  closed  against  spring  breezes;  and  whatever  beauties 
the  landscape  might  offer  lying  hidden  behind  forbidding  lines 
of  advertisements.  "One  arrives  after  a  motor  journey,"  one 
eminent  sociologist  wrote,  "all  liver  and  no  legs;  one's  mind  is 


asleep,  one's  body  tired;  one  is  bored,  irritable,  and  listless.25 
But  what  such  critics  forgot  was  that  the  great  majority  of 
Sunday  and  holiday  motorists,  or  even  vacation  tourists,  would 
have  been  cooped  up  in  crowded  towns  and  cities  except  for  the 
automobile.  The  country  they  saw  may  at  times  have  been 
almost  blotted  out  by  billboards  and  the  air  they  breathed 
tainted  by  gasoline  fumes.  But  the  alternative  in  many  cases 
would  have  been  the  movie,  the  dance-hall,  or  the  beer-parlor. 
The  steamboat  and  the  railroad  began  a  century  ago  to  open  up 
the  world  of  travel  and  provide  some  means  of  holiday  escape 
from  ojie's  immediate  environment,  but  until  the  coming  of  the 
automobile,  recreation  along  these  lines  was  a  rare  thing.  The 
wealthy  could  make  the  fashionable  tour  in  1825,  the  well-to-do 
built  up  the  summer  resorts  of  the  1890rs,  but  every  Tom,  Dick, 
and  Harry  toured  the  country  in  the  1930*s— thanks  to  the  auto- 

Much  of  the  criticism  of  the  way  the  automobile  was  used 
in  leisure-time  activities  may  have  been  justified,  but  any  gen- 
eral condemnation  of  its  part  in  national  recreation  implies  that 
pleasure  travel,  outdoor  life,  and  many  sports  should  have  largely 
remained  the  prerogative  of  the  -wealthy  few  who  could  afford 
other  means  of  transportation. 


in  the  United  States.  Their  chief  amusement  was  picking  up 
on  crude,  home-made  receiving  sets  the  wireless-telephony  mes- 
sages, principally  from  ships  at  sea,  which  symbolized  the 
quarter-century  advance  in  communications  since  Marconi's  ex- 
periments in  the  1890's,1  Broadcasting  grew  out  of  this  amateur 
activity.  When  experiments  were  made  in  putting  news  r~nd  music 
on  the  air,  the  realization  grew  that  this  new  medium  had  star- 
fling  potentialities  for  entertainment.  They  had  been  foreseen 
some  four  years  earlier  by  David  Sarnoff,  ambitiously  planning  a 
"Radio  Music  Box"  for  every  home,  but  apart  from  a  few  limited 
demonstrations  it  was  not  until  1920  that  broadcasting  in  its 
modern  sense  became  an  actuality. 

Among  the  experiments  with  music  in  that  year,  those  of 
Lester  Spangenberg,  a  former  navy  radio  operator,  have  been 
credited  with  constituting  the  first  regular  broadcasting.  Volun- 
teer pianists  and  banjo-players  began  to  meet  nightly  at  the 
Spangenberg  home  in  Lakeview,  New  Jersey,  and  a  program  was 
sent  out  on  which  hundreds  of  other  amateurs  tuned  in.2 

A  few  months  later,  enthusiasts  who  lived  near  Pittsburgh 
were  also  surprised  to  hear  music  which  was  being  broadcast- 
though  the  word  was  hardly  known— from  a  plant  of  the  .West; 
inghouse  Electric  and  Manufacturing  Company.  They  liked  it; 
a  number  of  them  wrote  in  suggesting  a  regular  program.  One 
was  consequently  put  on  the  air—baseball  scores  and  popular 
music  every  Wednesday  and  Saturday  night— and  soon  after- 
wards a  Pittsburgh  department  store  began  advertising  "ap- 


ON  THE  AIR  321 

proved  radio  receiving  sets  for  listening  to  Dr.  Conrad's  con- 
certs." The  Westinghouse  officials  suddenly  realized  that  they 
had  inadvertently  stumbled  on  something.  Here  was  a  way  to 
increase  sales  of  equipment  to  radio  fans  by  providing  enter- 
tainment, news  reports,  and  educational  features  for  those  who 
enjoyed  listening  in.3 

Arrangements  were  promptly  made  to  establish  the  famous 
KDKA,  the  first  permanent,  commercial  broadcasting  station.  It 
was  formally  opened  on  November  2,  1920,  to  broadcast  to  a  few 
listeners  (  some  of  whom  were  provided  with  free  receiving  sets  ) 
the  results  of  the  Harding-Cox  election.  The  success  of  the  ex- 
periment led  to  further  expansion  of  KDKA's  activities,  and 
within  a  year  to  the  establishment  of  other  pioneer  stations.  From 
that  date  the  rapid  expansion  of  broadcasting  and  growth  of  the 
great  invisible  audience  constituted  one  of  the  most  amazing 
phenomena  of  the  post-war  decade.  When  another  presidential 
contest  came  around  in  1924,  the  news  of  the  election  of  Coolidge 

«•».<  ......  .    T  '  4W.J..-H*.!         -J  „,  O        ,„ 

was  sent  out  over  a  nation-wide  hook-up  which  reached  five  mil- 
lion homes.  Hoover  was  elected  in  lj)2§,  and  the  number  of 
receiving  sets  had  swelled  to  ten  million.  They  had  almost  tripled 
in  the  next  eight  years,  and  the  great  majority  of  the  people 
throughout  the  country  first  learned  of  Roosevelt's  second  elec- 
tion over  the  air.4 

WnH  the  rapid  multiplication  of  broadcasting  stations  in  those 
first  years  after  1920,  the  ether  was  soon  crowded  with  music, 
stock-market  reports,  accounts  of  sporting  events,  and  bedtime 
stories.  In  January,  1921,  the  rector  of  the  Calvary  Episcopal 
Church  in  Pittsburgh  allowed  the  first  broadcasting  of  a  church 
service;  a  few  months  later  HgtbjSXt,  JJooyer  made  the  first  public 
address  over  the  air  in  an  appeal  for  funds,  tp  .support  European 
relief  work.5  The  Dempsey-Carpentier  fight  was  broadcast.  The 
New  York  Times  printed  an  inconspicuous  news  item  referring 
to  it  as  an  interesting  experiment  in  wireless  telephony,  but  a 


growing  army  of  radio   enthusiasts  realized   that   something 

epochal  was  taking  place. 

Before  the  end  of  1922  there  were  hundreds  of  broadcasting 
stations,  and  a  new  entertainment  industry  (WJZ  in  Newark, 
New  Jersey,  was  an  imaginative  pioneer  in  developing  popular 
programs)  was  fully  launched.6  There  is  radio  music  in  the  air, 
every  night,  everywhere,"  wrote  a  startled  newspaper  editor  in 
San  Francisco.  "Anybody  can  hear  it  at  home  on  a  receiving  set, 
which  any  boy  can  put  up  in  an  hour."  7  Hundreds  of  thousands 
were  making  the  same  discovery  and  rushed  to  buy  radios.  Presi- 
dent Harding  had  one  installed  in  his  study  at  the  White  House. 
All  the  world  wanted  this  new  device  annihilating  space  and 
bringing  entertainment  into  the  home  with  the  twist  of  a  dial. 
"The  rapidity  with  which  the  thing  has  spread,"  one  astounded 
observer  commented,  "has  possibly  not  been  equalled  in  all  the 
centuries  of  human  progress."  8 

There  was  a  great  deal  more  on  the  air  than  what  might  nor- 
mally fall  under  the  head  of  entertainment,  but  radio  made  its 
spectacular  advance  because  it  was  the  most  novel  amusement 
the  American  people  had  ever  known.  Following  the  example 
of  the  electrical  manufacturers  who  had  first  supported  broad- 
casting as  a  means  to  increase  radio  sales,  other  manufacturers, 
department  stores,  and  newspapers  soon  seized  the  opportunity 
to  operate  stations  which  would  enable  them  to  get  their  names 
before  the  public  in  a  favorable  light  They  were  not  always  sure 
what  to  do,  but  at  first  it  did  not  really  matter.  The  novelty  of 
any  broadcast  made  it  a  success.  Pioneer  radio  enthusiasts,  listen- 
ing far  into  the  night  with  head-phones  clamped  securely  to  their 
expectant  ears  ("^ar-muffs"  were  considered  far  superior  to  loud- 
speakers), were  more  interested  in  picking  up  distant  stations 
than  in  the  quality  of  near-by  music.  Involving  experiments 
with  new  devices,  the  constant  struggle  against  static,  and  all- 
night  vigils,  radio  was  originally  an  exciting  sport  rather  than  a 
passive  amusement.  It  was  highly  competitive  and  sometimes 
quite  exhausting.9 

The  First 



Station  2ZM,  owned 
and  operated  by 
Lester  Spangenberg 
at  Lakeview,  New 
Jersey,  1920. 

Broadcasting  to  the  Nation 

The  Master  Control  Room  of  the  National  Broadcasting  Company  at  Radio 

City,  New  York,  controlling  Stations  WEAF  and  WJZ  and  the  scores  of 

other  stations  in  the  Red  and  Blue  Networks.  Courtesy  of  the  National 

Broadcasting  Company. 

ON  THE  AIR  323 

Programs  covering  the  entire  day— from  setting  up  exercises 
at  6:45^M.  to  jazz  at  midnight— were  inaugurated  as  early  as 
1923^  by  such  stations  as  W|Z.  Music  predominated,  soprano 
solos  proving  most  popular,  but  there  were  also  informing  talks 
on  every  conceivable  subject  and  ingenious  radio  dramas.  A  trial 
was  made  of  what  were  called  "omni-oraT  productions  at  which 
the  entire  evening's  program  revolved  around  a  single  subject.  "A 
Night  Out  of  the  Past"  or  "A  Night  in  India"  was  presented  with 
related  music  and  talks.10 

It  was  radio's  awkward  age.  Critics  concerned  about  its  in- 
fluence in  the  transmission  of  ideas  became  gravely  worried  over 
what  was  happening.  In  October,  1924,  a  writer  in  the  New 
Republic  declared  that  jazz  was  the  principal  entertainment  on 
th&jur,  and  ninety  per  cent  of  everything  else  was  "sheer  rub- 
bish." "The  development  of  motion  pictures  in  the  United  States," 
he  stated,  "was  held  back  half  a  decade  because  at  first  it  was 
in  the  control  of  fly-by-nights,  adventurers  and  reformed  pushcart 
peddlers,  not  one  in  a  hundred  of  whom  had  reached  the  social 
level  where  one  takes  off  one's  hat  indoors.  Radio  broadcasting 
seems  threatened  by  the  same  fate."11  As  in  the  case  of  the 
movies,  however,  radio  was  destined  for  popular  entertainment 
even  if  it  meant  jazz  and  rubbish.  In  attempting  to  satisfy  public 
taste,  commercial-minded  though  it  may  have  been,  the  new 
industry  was  fulfilling  its  primary  function  in  providing  amuse- 
ment for  the  American  people  as  a  whole. 

Improvements  in  technique  and  organization  went  ahead 
faster  in  these  years  than  the  quality  of  entertainment.  Nation- 
wide hook-ups  were  inaugurated  in  1924  for  the  national  political 
conventions.  Radio's  enthusiasts,  listening  to  the  exciting  battle 
between  Al  Smith  and .William,  .Gilbfes  McAdoo  in  Madison 
Square  Garden  (with  the  persistent  Alabama  cry— "twenty-four 
votes  for  Oscar  W.  Underwood"),  enjoyed  more  than  ever  the 
sport  of  politics.  A  few  years  later,  chain  broadcasting,  linking 
stations  overlhe  entire  country,  enabled  listeners  everywhere  to 
hear  the  same  nightly  programs.  National  advertisers,  as  opposed 


to  local  merchants  and  newspapers,  sensed  the  potentialities  of  a 
medium  reaching  an  audience  which  now  numbered  many  mil- 
lions. A  new  era  in  broadcasting  was  ushered  in  with  sponsored 
programs  over  the  new  networks,  whereby  leading  manufacturers 
sought  to  associate  in  the  mass  mind  the  excellence  of  the  enter- 
tainment they  provided  with  the  excellent  qualities  of  their 
tooth  pastes,  automobiles,  mattresses,  ginger  ales,  watches,  or 
cough  drops.  Performances  became  more  elaborate,  radio  head- 
liners  were  developed,  and  still  further  impetus  given  to  the 
contagious  craze  so  rapidly  engulfing  a  great  majority  of  Ameri- 
can homes.12 

Throughout  the  land  orchestras  hammered  away  day  and 
night  at  "Mister  Gallagher  and  Mister  Shean,"  and  then  at  "Yes, 
We  Have  No  Bananas,"  "Barney  Google,"  or  "Valencia."  "O1" 
Man  River"  kept  rolling  along.  The  crooning  voice  of  Rudy 
YaUee  (*Tm  Just  a  Vagabond  Lover")  stirred  millions  of  femi- 
nine hearts;  husky-toned  torch  singers  soothed  masculine  breasts 
with  "Moanin  Low"  and  *Am  I  Blue?"  Then  there  were  Roxy 
and  his  Gang,  the  Happiness  Boys,  the  A  and  P  Gypsies,  the 
Cliquot  Club  Eskimos,  the  Ipana  Troubadours. . . . 

Saxophones,  trombones,  ukuleles  supplied  an  orgy  of  sound 
such  as  the  world  had  never  known.  Writing  in  1928,  Charles 
Merz  declared  that  twenty  to  thirty  million  Americans  were 
'listening  in  on  the  greatest  single  sweep  of  synchronized  and 
syncopated  rhythm  that  human  ingenuity  has  yet  conceived. 
This  is  our  counterpart  of  the  drum  the  black  man  beats  when 
the  night  is  dark  and  the  jungle  lonely.  Tom-tom."13  Tin  Pan 
Alley  was  rejuvenated.  It  was  no  longer  the  minstrel  show,  the 
vaudeville  team,  or  the  circus  that  spread  the  new  songs  through- 
out the  country.  It  was  the  radio.  It  gave  them  an  immediate  and 
universal  vogue— an  almost  instantaneous  nation-wide  popularity. 

This  music  was  not  the  whole  show.  Classical  music— piano 
recitals,  concert  singing,  symphonies,  opera  broadcasts— appealed 
to  a  small  but  nevertheless  growing  public.  After  1927  there  was 
general  agreement  among  musicians  that  radio  was  definitely 

ON  THE  AIR  325 

serving  to  improve  popular  taste.14  Women  particularly  favored 
symphonic  music,  and  national  advertisers  discovered  that  con- 
certs as  well  as  dance  music  might  serve  the  cause  of  expanding 
sales.  Soon  many  millions  were  listening  to  the  Metropolitan 
Opera  every  Saturday  afternoon  and  to  the  New  York  Philhar- 
monic-Symphony orchestra  every  Sunday. 

An  interesting  influence  was  exerted  on  the  phonograph.  About 
1919.  it  represented  one  of  the  most  popular  of  all  home  diver- 
sions. The  American  people  were  spending  more  on  phonographs 
and  equipment,  spurred  on  by  an  apparently  limitless  desire 
for  new  records,  than  they  were  on  all  other  musical  instruments, 
on  US  books  and  periodicals,  or  on  all  sporting  goods.  The  radio 
caused  an  almost  immediate  collapse  in  these  sales,  the  total 
dropping  in  twelve  years  from  $339,000,000  to  $17,000,000.15  As 
a  general  medium  of  entertainment,  the  phonograph  almost  dis- 
appeared. But  what  now  happened  was  that  greatly  improved 
and  more  expensive  phonographs,  combined  with  radios,  slowly 
began  to  make  up  some  of  this  lost  ground,  and  there  was  a  boom 
in  the  sale  of  recordings  of  classical  music. 

The  phonograph  industry,  that  is,  went  through  a  transforma- 
tion somewhat  comparable  to  the  changes  that  had  developed  in 
theatrical  enterprise.  The  radio  supplied  the  popular  product, 
as  vaudeville  and  then  the  movies  had  done  for  the  theatre,  and 
phonographs  were  largely  produced  for  the  more  cultured  au- 
dience which  wanted  something  more  than  jazz  and  syncopation. 
By  the  1930's  this  trend  had  become  very  marked,  and  the 
parallel  between  the  radio  and  movies,  on  the  one  hand,  and 
phonographs  and  the  legitimate  theatre,  on  the  other,  was  an 
interesting  phenomenon  of  the  amusement  world.  In  time  even 
the  piano  trade,  which  also  had  fallen  into  the  doldrums,  felt 
the  quickening  effect  of  a  new  appreciation  for  music  which  the 
radio  inspired  but  did  not  wholly  satisfy. 

Music  in  general  (popular  and  classical)  made  up  some  three- 
fourths  of  radio's  programs  in  its  early  years.  Next  in  popularity 
were  the  broadcasts  of  sporting  events— football  games,  prize- 


fights,  and  major-league  baseball  games.16  There  was  for  long 
no  more  familiar  voice  in  all  the  land  than  that  of  Graham  Mc- 
Namee  excitedly  describing  the  winning  touchdown,  the  knock- 
out blow,  or  the  ninth-inning  three-bagger.  Radio  dramas  and 
skits  had  also  been  developed  into  a  new  art.  There  were  mys- 
tery plays,  melodramas,  and  variety  acts.  Humorous  broadcasts 
had  a  great  vogue.  When  stock-market  prices  began  to  crash  and 
breadlines  lengthen  after  1929,  literally  millions  of  people  turned 
on  their  radios  every  night  to  listen  to  the  complicated  business 
and  domestic  affairs  of  Amos  *n  Andy.  Other  radio  head-liners 
came  and  went  as  the  great  American  people  took  up  first  one 
and  then  another  with  that  penchant  for  fads  which  has  always 
been  so  characteristic  of  the  popular  attitude. 

At  the  same  time  religious  services,  public  functions,  political 
talks,  were  broadcast  regularly.  News  reports—  not  only  sports 
and  market  prices  but  all  foreign  and  domestic  news—  featured 
every  program.  The  radio  commentator  became  a  new  figure 
in  the  world  of  affairs.  Countless  lectures  falling  within  the  edu- 
cational field  were  zealously  promoted  as  sustaining  programs. 
Throughout  the  day,  housewives,  half  -listening  to  the  radio  as 
they  went  about  their  work,  were  regaled  with  health  talks, 
fashion  hints,  recipes,  and  general  household  advice.  There  were 
children's  stories  and  spelling  contests.  It  all  came  under  the 
head  of  entertainment,  however  serious  some  of  the  talks  and 
speeches.  The  process  of  taking  it  in  was  so  completely  pain- 
less. Should  the  listener  ever  become  bored,  a  twist  of  the  dial 
and  he  could  change  his  program.17 

WITH  further  expansion  in  the  1930's,  for  the  sale  of  radios  did 
not  suffer  from  the  depression  as  much  as  many  other  forms  of 
entertainment,  the  invisible  audience  grew  still  larger.  The 
twelve  million  sets  in  use  at  the  opening  of  the  decade  had  in- 
creased to  some  forty  millions  by  its  close.18  More  than  four- 
fifths  of  the  entire  population  could  listen  in,  and  sometimes  did, 

ON  THE  AIR  327 

to  nation-wide  hook-ups  on  special  occasions.  There  were  not 
only  radios  in  more  than  twenty-six  million  private  homes,  in 
countless  clubs,  hotels,  schools,  and  other  institutions,  but  also 
on  railroad  trains  and  in  over  five  million  automobiles.  It  was 
hard  to  escape  them.  Traveling  salesmen,  cruising  taxicab  drivers 
in  the  cities,  even  farmers  driving  their  tractors,  had  radios. 
They  were  one  of  the  most  commonplace  features  of  American 

While  there  had  been  a  continued  advance  in  broadcasting 
classical  music,  growing  appreciation  of  folk-songs,  new  experi- 
ments with  radio  drama,  and  possibly  greater  discussion  of  pub- 
lic affairs,  the  more  popular  features  of  broadcasting  still  largely 
filled  the  air.  Tin  Pan  Alley  continued  to  turn  out  songs  to  meet 
every  need;  stars  of  both  the  stage  and  the  movie  world  were 
drafted  for  radio  "appearances";  hillbilly  and  dance  music  was 
always  available  on  a  dozen  stations.  The  minstrel  show  had  a 
belated  revival  over  the  air,  and  vaudeville  a  new  incarnation. 
Countless  thrillers  were  adapted  for  broadcasting,  and  exciting 
serials  were  followed  as  eagerly,  and  by  an  even  larger  audience, 
as  The  Perils  of  Pauline  had  been  followed  on  the  screen  a 
quarter-century  earlier. 

The  diversity  of  entertainment  on  the  air  made  the  attractions 
of  moving-picture  theatres  appear  stereotyped.  The  program 
changed  generally  at  fifteen-minute  intervals.  The  listener  in- 
advertently timing  in  on  "The  Woman  in  White"  could  hardly 
discover  what  was  going  on  before  another  voice  had  begun  a 
new  chapter  in  "Aunt  Jenny's  Story."  Melody  and  Madness 
succeeded  Information,  Please;  the  sketch  Blondie  was  sand- 
wiched between  two  song  recitals;  the  major-league  baseball 
broadcast  (the  moment  the  last  man  was  called  out)  was  fol- 
lowed by  a  talk  on  Men  and  Books;  Little  Orphan  Annie  faded 
out  to  give  way  to  Science  in  the  News;  church  hymns  were 
squeezed  in  after  the  sketch  Valiant  Lady;  Zinn's  Orchestra, 
Buck  Rogers,  and  Uncle  Don  followed  in  quick  succession;  Mrs. 
Roosevelt  was  worked  into  the  Hobby  Lobby  between  two 


variety  shows;  the  Goldbergs  gave  way  to  Life  Can  Be  Beau- 
tiful; a  Success  Session  paved  the  way  for  the  Chicago  Sym- 
phony; Edwin  G  Hill  on  the  news  led  to  Percy  Faith's  Music; 
Lowell  Thomas  followed  immediately  after  the  Ink  Spot  Quartet; 
the  Lone  Ranger. . .  .1S  It  was  a  mad  world.  Here  was  something 
for  all  the  family,  but  one  had  to  be  quick  to  catch  it. 

"The  lives  of  most  of  my  friends,"  Weare  Holbrook  wrote  in 
a  sketch,  "The  Ears  Have  It,"  in  the  Herald  Tribune  Magazine, 
"seem  to  be  governed  by  radio  programs.  In  planning  any  social 
function,  one  must  allow  for  the  vagaries  of  the  Charlie- 
McCarthophiles,  the  Jack-Bennyites,  the  Eddie-Cantorians,  the 
Information  Pleasers,  and  other  devotees  of  ethereal  cults;  and 
the  East  Teabone  Friday  Evening  Bridge  Club  has  disbanded, 
simply  because  it  is  impossible  to  get  a  quorum  any  more. 

**When  I  hear  my  host  and  hostess  speaking  in  a  preoccupied 
manner,  and  see  them  glancing  surreptitiously  at  the  clock,  I  no 
longer  feel  constrained  to  say,  Well,  I  guess  I'd  better  be  running 
along/  Instead  I  say,  *How  about  turning  on  the  radio?7  And  it  is, 
gratifying  to  observe  the  eagerness  with  which  they  respond  to 
my  suggestion." 20 

Objections  were  sometimes  raised  as  to  the  way  announce- 
ments of  the  remarkable  qualities  of  such-and-such  a  tooth  paste, 
deodorant,  cigarette,  automobile,  or  cathartic  broke  in  on  the 
closing  chords  of  the  symphony  or  interrupted  the  climax  of  the 
western  melodrama.  But  the  public  generally  realized  that  some 
one  had  to  support  broadcasting.  It  felt  that  it  was  paying  a 
small  price  for  its  entertainment  in  letting  the  national  adver- 
tisers have  a  chance  to  sell  their  products.  And,  after  all,  it  was 
not  necessary  to  listen  to  their  announcements. 

From  the  economic  point  of  view,  the  advertising  r61e  of  the 
radio  was  even  more  important  than  its  status  as  an  industry 
marketing  several  hundred  million  dollars*  worth  ($450,000,000 
in  1937)  of  products  annually.21  Manufacturers  reaching  a  mass 
market  found  it  an  increasingly  effective  method  of  promoting 
sales.  Campaigns  were  geared  to  radio  programs.  Merchandisers 

ON  THE  AIR  329 

counted  on  a  flood  of  orders  when  announcers  told  a  gullible 
public  (after  the  heroine  had  been  left  hanging  over  the  edge 
of  the  cliff,  or  the  swing  band  had  emitted  its  last  squawk)  that 
now  was  the  time  to  change  to  winter  oil— or  underwear— and 
to  take  a  liver  pill  for  that  tired  feeling.  Never  before  had  enter- 
tainment been  so  closely  allied  with  the  operations  of  big 

With  the  near-perfection  in  the  technicalities  of  broadcasting 
and  reception,  if  not  in  the  quality  of  programs,  that  the  industry 
could  now  rightfully  claim,  had  radio  made  its  ultimate  con- 
tribution to  the  entertainment  of  the  American  people?  At  the 
close  of  the  decade  television  appeared  over  the  horizon.  It  had 
already  been  introduced  on  a  limited  scale.  The  millions  of  visi- 
tors who  thronged  the  New  York's  World  Fair  in  the  summer  of 
1939  had  the  opportunity  not  only  to  hear  but  to  see  over  the 
air.  The  development  of  this  new  device  had  not  yet  advanced 
very  far  beyond  the  equivalent  of  the  vitascope  stage  of  motion- 
picture  production,  but  radio  engineers  promised  a  phenomenal 
expansion  which  in  time  might  revolutionize  all  broadcasting. 
(Plastic  surgeons  in  New  York  were  reported  opening  television 
hospitals  to  remodel  radio  announcers'  faces  for  the  future  movies 
of  the  air.) 

As  it  was,  the  radio  provided  more  amusement  for  more  peo- 
ple than  even  the  moving  picture  or  the  automobile.  Every  study 
of  how  people  spent  their  leisure  time  in  the  1930's  placed  listen- 
ing-in high  on  the  list  of  possible  amusements,  if  not  at  the  very 
top.22  Reading  was  put  off,  card  tables  closed  up,  conversation 
languished,  in  favor  of  the  programs  of  the  great  broadcasting 
companies.  The  local  baseball  team  had  few  supporters  when 
big-league  games  came  over  the  air;  church  entertainments  could 
hardly  compete  with  Broadway  stars.  In  the  average  household 
the  radio  was  generally  left  on  for  three  or  four  hours  a  day.28 
From  the  early-morning  weather  announcement  to  the  dying 
Strains  of  the  orchestra  in  some  New  York  night  club,  it  had 
something  to  interest  or  entertain  every  one.  More  generally 


available  in  urban  communities,  its  invasion  of  the  country  (al- 
most seventy  per  cent  of  rural  families  owned  radios  )  was  pos- 
sibly the  most  important  aspect  of  its  growth.  The  automobile 
had  made  it  possible  for  the  farmer  to  get  to  town  occasionally 
for  the  movies,  breaking  down  the  isolation  of  the  nineteenth 
century,  but  the  radio  brought  music  and  drama  into  his  home 
whenever  he  wanted  it.  There  were  also  the  large  number  of 
shut-in  people—  the  aged,  the  sick,  the  blind—  who  had  never  be- 
fore had  anything  remotely  comparable  to  the  radio  to  lighten 
the  empty  loneliness  of  their  lives. 

THE  BROAD  SCOPE  of  this  medium  for  broadcasting  not  only  enter- 
tainment but  news  and  opinion  continued  to  arouse  the  anxiety 
over  its  possible  effects  on  popular  thinking  expressed  in  the 
New  Republic's  caustic  editorial  of  1924.  Church  leaders  be- 
labored radio  for  providing  so  much  dance  music  and  so  little 
religion;  educators  bewailed  lost  opportunities  for  raising  the 
cultural  level;  the  social-minded  generally  coupled  the  radio  with 
the  movies  in  their  worries  over  standardization,  leveling  of  the 
public  mind,  the  regimentation  of  all  thought.  While  mass  con- 
sumption so  completely  governed  the  selection  of  programs,  it 
was  contended  that  the  radio  could  never  have  any  cultural  value 
or  appeal  for  the  sophisticated  minority.  The  dangers  of  propa- 
ganda over  the  air,  in  respect  to  both  domestic  politics  and  inter- 
national affairs,  also  created  very  real  concern  in  such  a  troubled 
period  as  the  1930's.  With  the  outbreak  of  war,  broadcasts 
across  national  boundaries—  the  incredible  phenomenon  of  hear- 
ing a  Hitler  actually  deliver  an  address  changing  the  whole 
course  of  world  events—  threw  into  stark  relief  the  potentialities 
of  the  radio  for  good  or  evil  in  a  field  which  went  far  beyond  the 
boundaries  of  amusement. 

It  was  left  to  the  future  to  wrestle  with  these  problems.  The 
American  people  for  the  time  at  least  upheld  the  freedom  of  the 
air  and  would  have  no  governmental  restraints  thrown  about  the 

ON  THE  AIR  331 

radio  other  than  supervision  of  wave-lengths.  They  were  content 
to  leave  such  censorship  as  was  essential  to  the  broadcasting 
companies  themselves.  Their  complete  dependence  upon  public 
good-will  was  felt  to  be  the  greatest  possible  safeguard  against 
abuse  of  their  tremendous  power. 


carried  away  by  successive  crazes.  The  tremendous  popu- 
larity o£  dancing  in  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  century  was 
remarked  upon  by  many  European  visitors,  while  the  Marquis 
de  Chastellux  was  amazed  by  Boston's  "passion"  for  whist  in  the 
1780*s.  The  mid-nineteenth  century  witnessed  enthusiastic  vogues 
for  phrenology,  balloon  ascensions,  minstrel  shows,  pedestrian 
races,  and  the  phenomenon  of  "Lindomania."  In  the  decades 
after  the  Civil  War  we  have  seen  the  fashionable  frenzy  with 
which  new  outdoor  pastimes  were  adopted  by  society,  the  epi- 
demics of  croquet,  roller-skating,  and  lawn  tennis  which  spread 
so  rapidly  over  the  land.  And  in  the  1890's  this  same  instinct  to 
take  up  whatever  was  new  or  different,  to  rush  hurriedly  along 
untrodden  ways,  was  evident  in  the  tremendous  growth  of  fra- 
ternal organizations  and  women's  clubs,  in  the  avidity  with 
which  the  public  welcomed  refined  vaudeville,  and  in  the  interest 
excited  by  amateur  photography,  John  L.  Sullivan,  band  concerts, 
and  bicycling. 

The  twentieth  century  found  an  even  more  susceptible  public 
taking  up  with  still  greater  vehemence  new  fads  and  fancies. 
Entirely  apart  from  the  enthusiastic  reception  given  such  major 
amusements  as  the  movies,  automobile  touring,  or  the  radio,  and 
the  welcome  accorded  the  new  sports  still  to  be  considered,  it 
rushed  through  a  succession  of  varied  diversions  with  an  inten- 
sity born  of  the  feverish  pace  of  modern  life.  In  the  ballyhoo 
years  of  the  'twenties  this  zest  for  novelties  had  become  almost 
a  mania.  "One  of  the  most  striking  characteristics  of  the  era  of 



Coolidge  Prosperity/*  Frederick  Lewis  Allen  has  written  in  Only 
Yesterday,  "was  the  unparalleled  rapidity  and  unanimity  with 
which  millions  of  men  and  women  turned  their  attention,  their 
talk,  and  their  emotional  interest  upon  a  series  of  tremendous 
trifles—  a  heavyweight  boxing  match,  a  murder  trial,  a  new  auto- 
mobile, a  transatlantic  flight"  a 

As  one  looks  back  upon  the  first  forty  years  of  the  new  century, 
there  is  something  strange  and  wonderful  about  the  kaleidoscopic 
scene.  Ragtime  burst  upon  the  country  to  drive  out  the  old- 
fashioned  waltzes  and  polkas,  gave  way  after  its  brief  rule  to  jazz, 
and  then  in  turn  jazz  surrendered  to  swing.  There  was  an  epi- 
demic of  diabolo  in  1907,  of  ping-pong  in  1913,  of  mah-jong  in 
1923,  of  cross-word  puzzles  in  1924,  and  of  miniature  golf  in  1930. 
With  bewildering  rapidity  the  country  also  took  up  (and  usually 
ran  into  the  ground)  dance  marathons,  bathing-beauty  contests, 
bunion  derbys,  flagpole  sitters,  comic  strips,  greyhound-races, 
and  "Yes,  We  Have  No  Bananas." 

Striking  the  country  with  its  full  force  on  the  eve  of  the  de- 
pression, contract  bridge  almost  overnight  became  the  obsession 
of  millions.  In  a  somewhat  more  sober  spirit,  the  1930's  also 
found  the  country  taking  up  gardening,  bingo,  amateur  theatri- 
cals, treasure-hunts,  monopoly,  Chinese  checkers,  The  Game, 
prize  contests,  and  the  big  apple.  In  some  cases  the  fad  bit  deep 
enough  to  become  a  lasting  habit  (contract  bridge,  cross-word 
puzzles,  gardening),  but  more  generally  it  quickly  gave  way  to 
something  else  as  with  unquestioning  enthusiasm  everybody 
climbed  aboard  the  Great  American  Band-Wagon. 

THE  PBE-WAK  CBAZE  for  dancing  ushered  in  by  ragtime  made  it 
more  popular  than  it  had  ever  been  before.  The  bright  par- 
ticular stars  who  led  this  revival  were  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Vernon 
Castle.  Under  the  inspiration  of  their  graceful  example,  hundreds 
of  thousands  enthusiastically  learned  the  new  dances  which 
the  stimulating  music  of  "Alexander's  Ragtime  Band"  had  intro- 


duced,  gliding  happily  through  the  mazes  of  the  fox-trot  and 
the  hesitation  waltz  at  fashionable  thes  dansants  and  in  public 
ball-rooms.2  One  of  the  favorite  dance  tunes  was  "Everybody's 
Doing  It"— and  it  was  almost  literally  true.  It  was  reported  that 
when  a  young  girl  was  arraigned  on  a  charge  of  disorderly  con- 
duct for  turkey-trotting,  counsel  for  defense  easily  won  his  case 
by  singing  "Everybody's  Doing  It."  The  jury  joined  in  the  chorus 
and  brought  in  a  quick  verdict  of  acquittal.8 

The  Castles  played  an  influential  part  in  setting  the  tone  of 
this  revival  of  social  dancing.  A  later  commentator  wrote  that  the 
pre-war  craze  was  "an  opening  engagement  in  that  revolution  in 
manners  and  morals  which  was  to  excite  America  during  the 
nineteen  twenties,"4  but  music  and  dancing  were  far  more 
decorous  than  in  that  later  decade.  The  bunny  hug,  lame  duck, 
and  grizzly  bear  awoke  derision  and  some  criticism,  but  the 
Castles  countered  with  the  tango  and  maxixe.  At  the  thes 
dansants  fashion  decreed  that  actual  tea  should  be  served.  "Here 
in  America  we  are  just  beginning  to  wake  up  to  the  possibilities 
of  dancing,"  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Castle  wrote.  "We  are  beginning  to 
take  our  place  among  the  nations  who  enjoy  life." 5 

The  next  step  was  jazz.  There  is  a  natural  musical  language 
of  jazz,  whose  esthetic  significance  may  be  left  to  the  musicians, 
but  in  its  popular,  commercialized  forms  it  has  been  loosely  de- 
fined as  "dance  music,  generally  syncopated,  played  by  a  small 
band  eccentrically  composed."  6  Paul  Whiteman  termed  it  "the 
folk  music  of  the  machine  age."7  Known  immemorially  among 
the  Negroes  of  the  South,  it  was  first  brought  north  about  1914 
when  various  "original"  Dixieland  Jazz  Bands  began  playing 
in  Chicago  night  clubs,  and  then  went  on  to  New  York  jazzing 
the  ragtime  blues.8  The  real  jazz  was  played  without  a  score, 
individual  players  "faking"  their  parts,  or  freely  improvising,  as 
they  went  along.  But  it  was  after  Whiteman  undertook  its  or- 
chestration—with the  development  of  symphonic  jazz— that  it 
really  caught  on.  And  then  it  swept  the  country  like  wild-fire.  It 
was  so  universally  the  dance  music  of  the  1920's  that  it  gave  its 


name  to  the  decade.  "To  write  fully  and  adequately  about  jazz," 
Mark  Sullivan  states  in  Our  Times,  'would  be  to  write  the  history 
of  much  of  the  generation." 9 

The  saxophone  was  its  most  essential  instrument— "the  heart, 
soul,  mind,  body  and  spirit  of  the  jazz  orchestra."  Everywhere 
the  younger  generation  fox-trotted  to  its  barbaric  yawp,  clinging 
to  one  another  in  what  one  editor  described  as  a  "syncopated 
embrace." 10  Gradually  their  elders  succumbed  to  the  contagion. 
All  the  world  danced  to  "Kitten  on  the  Keys,"  "Crazy  Rhythm," 
Tm  Always  Chasing  Rainbows,"  "Tea  for  Two,"  "It  Ain't  Gonna 
Rain  No  More,"  "The  Japanese  Sandman,"  "111  Say  She  Does," 
"Youre  the  Cream  in  My  Coffee,"  "I  Faw  Down  an*  Go 
Boom  " . .  .ai 

The  violent  acrobatics  of  the  Charleston  became  a  new  rage: 

We  all  went  to  the  party,  a  real  high-toned  affair 
And  then  along  came  Lulu,  as  wild  as  any  Zulu. 
She  started  in  to  'Charleston,* 
And  how  the  boys  did  stare. . .  ,12 

Jazz  set  the  pace  for  the  hundreds  of  night  clubs,  pretentious 
outgrowth  of  the  first  humble  speak-easies  of  these  days  of  Pro- 
hibition. At  Texas  Guinan's,  the  Embassy  Club,  Helen  Morgan's, 
and  the  Cotton  Club,  New  York's  fashionable  world  "made 
whoopee"  in  a  garish  atmosphere  spiced  with  gin  and  apple- 
jack.18 It  was  the  music  for  the  dances  of  country  club,  fraternity, 
and  pastime  association  in  the  small  town.  It  came  over  the  air 
for  informal  dances  at  a  million  homes— roll  back  the  rugs,  turn 
on  the  radio.  It  ruled  supreme  at  public  dance-halls  for  working 
men  and  working  girls  who  had  no  other  opportunity  to  have 
their  whirl  at  fox-trot  or  Charleston.  It  dominated  the  cities' 
growth  of  taxi  dance-halls  ("Eureka  Dancing  Academy— Fifty 
Beautiful  Lady  Instructors")  where  city  slickers  and  country 
boys,  old-line  Americans  and  newly  arrived  immigrants,  found 
willing  partners  at  a  dime  a  dance.14  "There  are  thirty  million 
people  vfrho  dance  in  the  United  States,  daily,  weekly,  or  fre- 


quentiy,"  a  magazine  writer  stated  in  1924.  "A  billion  dollars  for 
dancing  by  rich  and  poor  would  be  a  modest  bill." 15 

The  type  of  dancing  inspired  by  jazz  awoke  a  storm  of  protest 
from  the  pure  in  heart.  "The  music  is  sensuous,  the  embracing 
of  partners— the  female  only  half  dressed— is  absolutely  indecent," 
the  Catholic  Telegraph  declared,  "and  the  motions—they  are  such 
as  may  not  be  described,  with  any  respect  for  propriety,  in  a 
family  newspaper.  Suffice  it  to  say  that  there  are  certain  houses 
appropriate  for  such  dances;  but  these  houses  have  been  closed 
by  law."  Other  religious  journals  united  in  denouncing  the  new 
dances  as  "impure,  polluting,  corrupting,  debasing,  destroying 
spirituality,  increasing  carnality/*16 

Jazz  and  the  cheek-to-cheek  dancing  it  inspired  were  but  an- 
other manifestation  of  the  post-war  upheaval  in  morals  which 
had  set  the  country,  so  the  reformers  sincerely  believed,  on  a 
downward  course  that  led  to  chaos  and  destruction.  The  younger 
generation  was  running  wild— short  skirts  and  rolled  stockings, 
bobbed  hair,  corsets  parked  in  the  ladies'  dressing-room,  the 
"insidious  vintage'*  of  rouge,  cigarettes  and  hip-flasks,  petting 
parties. ...  It  was  all  a  part  of  the  spiritual  confusion  of  an  age 
whose  reflex  from  a  war  psychosis  had  led  to  a  mad  pursuit  of 
pleasure  in  which  the  .standards  of  an  earlier  day  appeared  to 
have  gone  completely  by  the  board. 

The  country,  even  the  younger  generation,  survived.  It  was 
perhaps  inevitable  that  with  all  it  had  gone  through,  it  should 
have  to  let  off  steam  for  a  time  with  the  throttle  wide  open  and 
careless  disregard  of  all  warning  signals.  The  war  had  precipi- 
tated, made  more  violent,  changes  in  the  social  scene  which 
otherwise  would  have  come  more  slowly.  The  growing  accep- 
tance of  the  right  to  play  was  for  a  time  translated  into  a  popular 
belief  that  nothing  except  play  really  mattered.  The  freedom  that 
women  were  slowly  winning  became  the  license  characterized, 
in  certain  circles  of  society,  by  the  knee-length  skirt  and  the 
petting-party.  A  more  healthy  balance  was  in  time  restored,  but 
the  jazz  age  promoted  a  freedom  in  social  activities  and  in  the 


popular  attitude  toward  amusements  which  really  did  mark  a 
social  revolution. 

EAHLY  IN  THE  1920's  another  craze  hit  the  country  so  hard  that 
for  a  time  it  appeared  that  there  would  be  no  further  playing  of 
the  age-old  pastime  of  cards—  no  more  chess,  checkers,  or  dom- 
inoes. Mah-jong  was  a  Chinese  game  which  had  become  popular, 
with  simplified  rules,  at  the  English-speaking  clubs  of  Shanghai. 
In  the  summer  of  1922  the  experiment  was  made  of  importing  a 
few  sets  into  the  United  States.  The  game  was  publicized  with 
the  technique  so  familiar  to  the  ballyhoo  years,  and  it  took  hold 
almost  at  once.  "From  fifty  thousand  tables  strewn  with  green 
bamboos  and  fallen  Dragons,"  Charles  Merz  was  writing  the  next 
year  in  the  New  Republic,  "comes  a  nightly  chorus,  Fung!"17 
American  manufacturers  began  to  exploit  the  market  for  ex- 
pensive sets  of  ivory  and  bamboo  tiles,  and  despite  all  the  in- 
tricacies of  the  game  and  bitter  disputes  over  the  proper  rules  of 
play,  mah-jong  was  all  the  rage. 

It  faded  away  almost  as  quickly  as  it  had  appeared.  Soon  the 
Ming  box,  South  Winds,  and  Red  Dragons  were  forgotten  in 
favor  of  a  new  amusement  which  created  even  more  of  a  pother 
and  showed  greater  signs  of  permanence.  For  long  newspapers 
had  occasionally  published  cross-word  puzzles,  and  the  New 
York  World  had  been  running  them  since  1912.  They  meant 
little  in  the  lives  of  most  people,  but  gradually  a  group  of  the 
intelligentsia—  among  others  Heywood  Broun,  F.P.A.,  and  Ruth 
Hale—  took  them  up,  and  in  1924  it  occurred  to  an  editor  just 
embarked  on  a  new  publishing  venture  that  a  cross-word  puzzle 
book  might  aid  the  infant  firm  in  getting  started.  He  appealed 
to  the  puzzle  editors  of  the  World  to  help  him  out,  and  the  result 
was  a  slim  volume,  equipped  with  a  pencil,  whose  sale  now 
became  the  new  publishing  firm's  major  aim.18 

"We  hired  halls.  We  drafted  by-laws  and  rules  for  amateur 
cross-word  orgies,'*  wrote  one  of  its  members.  ".  .  .  we  visited 


editors,  urging  them  to  put  cross-word  puzzles  in  the  papers 

Soon  we  were  selling  thousands  of  copies  a  day  and  breaking 
into  the  best  seller  lists."19  Other  puzzle  books  crowded  close 
on  the  heels  of  the  pioneer;  newspapers  everywhere  fell  in  line 
with  the  idea  of  printing  daily  puzzles,  and  there  was  a  phenom- 
enal demand  for  dictionaries  and  copies  of  Roget's  Thesaurus. 
"The  newspapers  carried  the  news  that  a  Pittsburgh  pastor  had 
put  the  text  of  his  sermon  into  a  puzzle/'  one  commentator  wrotet 
'The  Baltimore  and  Ohio  Railroad  placed  dictionaries  in  all  the 
trains  on  its  main  line.  A  traveler  between  New  York  and  Boston 
reported  that  60  per  cent  of  the  passengers  were  trying  to  fill 
up  squares  in  their  puzzles,  and  that  in  the  dining-car  five  waiters 
were  trying  to  think  of  a  five-letter  word  which  meant  'serving 
to  inspire  fear/  Anybody  you  met  on  the  street  could  tell  you 
the  name  of  the  Egyptian  sun-god  or  provide  you  with  a  two- 
letter  word  which  meant  a  printer's  measure." 20  The  fad,  in  short, 
was  universal. 

Supplemented  by  the  vogue  they  inspired  for  otiher  somewhat 
comparable  games,  cross-word  puzzles  appeared  to  Kathleen 
Norris  to  have  opened  up  entirely  new  vistas  for  the  American 
people.  The  newspapers  are  full  of  games— words  to  guess,  rimes 
to  fill  in,  ingenious  autographs  to  make,  novels  to  identify,"  she 
wrote  in  the  Ladies9  Home  Journal  in  1928.  "'Clerks  and  plumbers 
and  school-teachers  and  school  children  go  home  elbow  to  elbow 
in  the  Subway,  muttering  five  letter  words  that  mean  common- 
place or  trying  to  supply  the  laddergram  links  between  Bride  and 
Groom.  Amusement,  once  the  prerogative  of  royalty  and  wealth, 
is  everywhere,  now,  and  with  this  wave  of  games  the  nation  gains 
a  great  lifting  of  the  spirit,  a  sort  of  universal  heightening  per 
capita  of  the  country's  average  enjoyment."  21 

Somewhat  less  happy  conclusions  were  drawn  from  the  same 
phenomena  by  George  Jean  Nathan.  "The  games  and  diversions 
that  man  invents  for  the  pleasure  of  his  leisure  hours,"  he  wrote 
in  the  American  Mercury,  "are  of  such  an  unbelievable  stupidity 
and  dulness  that  it  is  impossible  to  imagine  even  the  lowest  of 


God's  animals  and  insects  indulging  in  relatively  imbecile  re- 
laxations." 22 

Whether  it  may  be  judged  as  furthering  "a  sort  of  universal 
heightening  per  capita  of  the  country's  average  enjoyment"  or 
merely  as  again  demonstrating  man's  inferiority  to  the  lowest  of 
God's  animals  and  insects,  the  next  fad  that  made  an  impression 
upon  the  country  comparable  to  that  of  mah-jong  or  crossword 
puzzles  was  miniature  golf.  This  game  involved  hitting  a  ball 
across  a  surface  of  crushed  cotton-seed  hulls  and  through  various 
tin  pipes  into  a  series  of  holes  which  represented,  as  the  game's 
name  implied,  a  replica  of  a  golf-course.  In  the  summer  of  1930 
it  was  hailed,  and  in  the  utmost  seriousness,  as  a  psychological 
and  economic  answer  to  the  depression  which  President  Hoover's 
optimism  could  no  longer  conceal  was  now  spreading  over  the 
entire  country.  Miniature  golf  was  taldng  the  minds  of  the  mul- 
titude off  the  troubles  in  which  their  lives  seemed  enmeshed;  it 
was  creating  a  demand  for  cotton-seed  hulls  and  tin  pipes  which 
would  revive  both  the  cotton  and  steel  industries. 

Thirty  thousand  courses,  valued  as  high  as  $125,000,000,  sprang 
up.23  They  became  almost  as  commonplace  along  motor  roads 
as  filling-stations  or  hot-dog  stands;  they  took  over  the  empty 
lots  of  every  town  and  city.  Miniature  golf  was  played  through- 
out the  day  by  its  devotees;  it  was  played  well  into  the  night, 
under  glaring  arc-lights.  Its  cheapness  was  in  line  with  the 
chastened  spirit  of  the  amusement-seekers  of  1930,  and  it  filled 
the  leisure  of  many  who  unaccountably  found  themselves  without 
jobs.  It  had  a  further  appeal  in  its  resemblance  to  golf  itself. 
Players  of  the  "midget"  game  could  talk  as  glibly  as  the  country- 
club  crowd  on  the  difficulties  of  the  fourth  hole,  of  their  eagles 
and  birdies.  Men  and  women,  boys  and  girls,  rented  putters  and 
chased  balls  around  the  tortuous  tin-pipe  courses.  It  was  an  in- 
expensive and  novel  way  for  the  young  man  to  entertain  his 
girl  friend. 

The  game  flourished  through  that  memorable  summer  like  a 
green  bay  tree,  and  when  winter  caused  the  closing  of  the 


courses,  it  was  still  confidently  expected  that  the  next  year  would 
see  even  further  expansion.  But  by  then  the  public  had  tired  of 
miniature  golf.  It  had  been  a  one-year  phenomenon.  A  few  pro- 
prietors of  courses  hung  on,  but  the  motorist  no  longer  stopped 
for  a  passing  game,  and  the  young  man  again  took  his  girl  friend 
to  a  movie—  or  else  they  sat  on  a  park  bench. 

Elmer  Davis,  writing  in  December,  1930,  when  the  future  of 
both  miniature  golf  and  the  economic  state  of  the  nation  ap- 
peared somewhat  rosier  than  events  were  to  prove  they  actually 
were,  paid  his  dutiful  respects  to  the  sport.  "So  perhaps  miniature 
golf  did  its  part,  and  a  large  part,"  he  said  in  Harper's,  "in  carry- 
ing us  past  a  crisis.  Perhaps  the  business  revival  would  have  come 
sooner  if  the  President,  and  the  Cabinet,  and  Congress  had  be- 
come miniature  golf  addicts  too/*  24 

THE  PUTIEBS  were  still  being  swung  at  roadside  courses  when  a 
very  considerable  part  of  the  population  found  itself  even  more 
absorbed,  almost  to  the  exclusion  of  depression  worries,  in  con- 
tract bridge. 

Auction  had  been  introduced  into  this  country  soon  after  the 
opening  of  the  century.  Originally  devised  as  a  three-handed 
game  by  three  British  civil  servants  in  India  who  found  time 
hanging  heavy  on  their  hands,25  it  had  not  only  taken  the  place 
of  whist  in  the  social  world  but  had  given  a  new  interest  to  gen- 
eral card-playing.  It  appealed  especially  to  women  of  the  middle 
class  whose  increasing  leisure  gave  them  afternoons  they  often 
did  not  quite  know  how  to  fill.  The  bridge  club,  with  its  teas  and 
luncheons,  had  come  to  represent  one  of  the  major  social  ac- 
tivities of  town  and  suburban  life,  while  informal  evening  play 
met  the  needs  of  those  who  desired  entertainment  without  the 
effort  of  making  conversation.  As  compared  with  only  one  card- 
party  reported  in  Middletowns  local  press  during  three  months 
in  1890,  the  Lynds  discovered  notices  of  thirty  such  affairs  in  a 
comparable  period  for  1923.26 

Golf  on  d  Vacant  Lot 

Devotees  of  Swing 

An  audience  of  Bob  Crosby's  Bob  Cats  thrilling  to  hot  exploits  on  the  bull 

fiddle  in  a  Chicago  restaurant.  Photograph  by  Bernard  Hoffman,  courtesy 

of  Life. 


In  spite  of  auction's  popularity,  the  introduction  of  contract 
with  its  more  involved  play  and  complicated  scoring  intensified 
this  craze  to  an  extent  which  amazed  even  those  who  were  doing 
their  best  to  promote  it.  It  had  been  played  in  Europe  some  time 
earlier  but  was  first  brought  to  this  country  in  1926.  The  next 
year  official  rules  were  adopted  by  the  Whist  Club,  and  at  first 
slowly,  then  with  a  sudden  rush,  contract  completely  supplanted 
auction.27  By  1931  enrolment  in  the  new  bridge  courses  started 
by  professional  teachers  totaled  five  hundred  thousand,  and  al- 
together there  were  estimated  to  be  some  twenty  million  play- 
ers.28 The  newspapers  had  bridge  columns,  magazines  were 
founded  to  explain  the  game's  fine  points,  and  over  a  hundred 
instruction  books  were  on  the  market.  Tournaments  attracted 
the  attention  usually  reserved  for  championship  prize-fights  or 
intercollegiate  football  games.  Bridge  had  its  Four  Horsemen  as 
well  as  football.  The  entire  country  hung  breathlessly  on  the  out- 
come of  a  sensational  Battle  of  the  Century  between  the  leading 
experts.  "If  contract  is  not  the  national  game,"  wrote  a  contributor 
describing  this  "purest  of  pleasures"  for  Harper's  in  1932,  *it  is 
second  only  to  golf." 29 

The  promotional  activities  of  contract's  high  priest,  Ely  Cul- 
bertson,  revealed  a  new  genius  in  the  art  of  ballyhoo.  He  made  a 
card  game  news  as  it  never  had  been  before.  A  furor  was  aroused 
when  he  introduced  his  approach-forcing  system  of  bidding  and 
challenged  supporters  of  the  official  system  to  prove  that  he  was 
not  superbly  right  in  everything  he  said  and  wrote.  The  game 
was  played  everywhere.  If  the  working  class  still  clung  to  pedro 
or  five  hundred,  the  social  world  made  contract  an  almost  in- 
variable rule  for  after-dinner  entertainment.  Until  the  effects  of 
the  depression  somewhat  moderated  the  fever,  it  was  primarily 
a  money  game.  The  stakes  ranged  from  a  dollar  a  point  in  the 
fashionable  clubs  to  a  tenth  of  a  cent  among  those  who  could  not 
afford  to  gamble.  And  it  was  always  taken  seriously.  It  seemed 
almost  heresy  to  many  thousands  torn  with  anxiety  as  to  how 
they  should  return  their  partner's  lead,  lying  awake  at  night 


smarting  tinder  the  chagrin  of  a  misleading  discard,  when  the 
great  maestro  was  quoted  as  having  admitted  that  "after  all, 
contract  is  only  a  game."  so 

DURING  the  depression  years  other  fads  generally  reflected  the 
forced  economies  that  most  people  had  to  make.  One  of  the  most 
popular,  the  game  of  bingo,  went  a  step  further.  It  presented  a 
chance  to  win  something,  and  all  over  the  country  men,  women, 
and  children  spent  long  hours  trying  to  fill  up  a  row  of  numbers 
on  a  cardboard  square  in  the  hope  of  taking  home  a  ham,  a  box 
of  groceries,  a  tin  of  coffee,  or  one  of  the  rare  money  prizes. 
Bingo  was  played  at  amusement  parks,  movie  theatres,  penny 
arcades,  firemen's  carnivals,  country  fairs,  Grange  suppers,  and 
church  socials.  It  appealed  to  the  gambling  instinct  of  a  people 
always  ready  for  a  game  of  chance.  The  rewards  were  never  very 
great,  but  the  risk  was  even  less—  thirty-five  games  for  thirty-five 
cents  was  the  usual  charge  to  play. 

It  had  been  a  minor  carnival  attraction,  together  with  beano 
and  keno,  for  at  least  thirty  years  before  it  was  exploited  so  sue-  ' 
cessfully  during  the  1930's.  How  it  then  started  on  such  a  pros- 
perous career  remains  a  mystery,  but  there  was  no  question  that 
the  something-for-nothing  motive—  or  at  least  something  for 
thirty-five  cents—  made  an  appeal  which  amusement-seekers 
with  little  to  spend  found  it  hard  to  resist.31  When  it  spread  from 
carnivals  and  amusement  parks  to  church  socials,  a  storm  of  con- 
troversy arose  over  the  ethics  of  the  gambling  involved,  but 
despite  all  protests  it  continued  to  be  played  as  church  com- 
mittees found  it  the  easiest  way  of  raising  money. 

"Bingo  Every  Night  in  the  Holy  Spirit  Room"  was  the  startling 
announcement  of  one  church  presenting  it  as  regular  entertain- 
ment. And  it  had  warm  defenders.  "I  cannot  grow  frenzied  with 
the  puritanic  precisionists  who  rate  the  bourgeois  pastime  of 
bingo  as  a  major  sin,"  one  churchman  wrote.  "Church  bingo  par- 
ties are  a  healthy  substitute  for  gossip  teas,  lovesick  movies,  and 


liberal  minded  lecturers."  Outraged  ministers  of  the  gospel  might 
declare  that  "the  Kingdom  of  God  cannot  be  established  by 
shooting  craps,"  but  the  more  realistic  among  them  seemed  to 
feel  tihat  bingo  was  a  relatively  innocent  pastime  in  comparison 
with  other  money  games.82  Many  communities,  however,  finally 
felt  forced  to  take  action  against  what  they  considered  the  dan- 
gerous spread  of  gambling.  As  a  striking  throwback  to  its  old 
blue  laws,  Connecticut,  the  land  of  steady  habits,  was  among 
those  which  moved  to  prohibit  the  game. 

Somewhat  analogous  to  bingo  was  the  craze  for  prize  contests. 
In  newspapers  and  magazines,  over  the  radio,  the  public  was 
eloquently  urged  by  interested  advertisers  to  while  away  the 
hours  and  win  substantial  rewards  by  completing  a  limerick  ex- 
tolling some  breakfast  food  or  by  discovering  the  name  of  a  facial 
cream  hidden  in  a  cartoon.  If  reformers  again  suggested  that 
prize  contests  came  perilously  close  to  lotteries,  generally  banned 
since  their  own  vogue  early  in  the  nineteenth  century,  millions 
nevertheless  enjoyed  them.  And  in  most  cases  they  accepted  with 
patient  resignation  their  failure  to  win  the  offered  prizes— an 
automobile,  a  trip  to  Europe,  a  radio,  a  bicycle,  a  diamond  pin, 
and  occasionally  cash  awards  as  high  as  a  thousand  dollars. 

It  was  estimated  in  1938  that  there  had  been  a  thousand  per 
cent  increase  in  prize  contests  since  the  advent  of  the  depression. 
Twenty-five  million  persons  were  said  to  take  part  in  them  on 
an  average  of  twice  a  year,  some  individual  contests  attracting 
as  many  as  three  million  entries.33  The  magazine  Win  offered  its 
own  selection  for  addicts  whom  the  national  advertisers  could 
not  keep  busy.  Anagrams  were  puzzled  over,  missing  words  filled 
in,  the  names  of  popular  songs  guessed,  cross-word  puzzles 
worked  out,  verses  composed,  and  candid-camera  shots  submitted 
in  scores  of  amateur-photography  contests. 

Another  widespread  expression  of  the  gambling  spirit  (with 
even  less  dependence  on  skill)  was  the  depression-fostered  popu- 
larity of  slot  machines,  pinball  games,  punchboards,  and  jar  deals. 
In  an  article  called  "Ten  Billion  Nickels"  a  writer  in  the  Saturday 


Evening  Post  estimated  tibat  the  annual  take  of  these  gambling 
devices  in  1939  was  over  $500,000,000,  while  a  Gallup  poll  the 
same  year  reported  that  one  out  of  every  three  adults  in  the 
country  occasionally  took  a  chance  on  his  nickel  winning  the 
jackpot.  With  slot-machine  installations  in  cigar  stores,  filling 
stations,  lunch  counters,  drug-stores,  and  bars,  here  was  a  form 
of  petty  gambling  actually  more  important  than  all  the  betting 
on  horse-races,  policy  games,  and  cards. 

Along  quite  different  lines,  gardening  attained  a  popularity  in 
these  years  that  it  had  never  before  experienced.  It  was  hardly 
a  new  diversion.  A  good  many  centuries  earlier  Milton  had 

And  add  to  these  retired  Leisure, 

That  in  trim  gardens  takes  his  pleasure. 

But  it  appealed  to  people  in  the  1930's  whose  leisure  was  en- 
forced rather  than  retired.  As  the  Lynds  pointed  out  in  Middle- 
town  Revisited,  there  was  a  rediscovery  of  the  back  yard  when 
amusements  farther  afield  seemed  impractical  that  took  the 
form  of  a  "mild  mania  of  flower  gardening/' 84  Neglected  strips 
of  land  blossomed  out  in  a  profusion  of  color,  and  in  many  cases 
more  economically  with  carefully  weeded  rows  of  vegetables.  In 
the  upper  reaches  of  society  the  growing  popularity  of  this  out- 
door amusement  found  expression  in  the  organization  of  garden 
clubs,  deeply  concerned  with  annual  exhibitions  in  which  the 
rivalry  over  delphinium  and  gladioli  was  as  intense  as  that  of 
the  bridge-table.  Working-class  families  were  content  to  cul- 
tivate their  flowers  and  vegetables  without  any  such  stimulus. 

Other  hobbies  were  taken  up  by  the  score.  So  widespread  was 
this  development  that  department  stores  established  hobby  sec- 
tions, newspapers  and  magazines  ran  special  hobby  pages  ( The 
Rotarian  called  its  page  the  Hobbyhorse  Hitching  Post),  the  radio 
had  its  Hobby  Lobby,  and  home-owners  made  over  their  cellars 
into  hobby-rooms.  Among  the  rush  of  books  to  promote  the  idea 
that  every  man— and  woman— should  develop  some  special  in- 


terest  for  his  leisure  hours,  one  of  the  most  successful  was 
Earnest  Elmo  Calkin's  The  Care  and  Feeding  of  Hobby  Horses. 
Despite  the  general  tendency  to  take  up  something  that  would 
be  as  inexpensive  as  possible,  it  was  estimated  in  1937  that  the 
American  people  were  spending  anywhere  from  $50,000,000  to 
$200,000,000  a  year  on  the  craze.35. 

What  were  the  hobbies?  Thousands  of  people  took  up  model- 
ing, water-colors,  or  wood-carving;  collected  old  bottles,  cam- 
paign buttons,  Indian  relics,  or  match-boxes;  built  model  trains 
and  boats  and  airplanes;  experimented  with  soap  sculpture  and 
puppet  shows;  studied  botany,  astronomy,  or  geology;  tried  to 
breed  scotties  or  tropical  fish.  .  .  . 

WHILE  NONE  of  these  minor  diversions  of  the  1930's  was  in 
any  way  quite  comparable  in  sudden  and  universal  popular- 
ity to  mah-jong,  cross-word  puzzles,  or  miniature  golf,  swing 
won  a  distinctive  place  for  itself.  As  the  saxophones  blared  forth 
this  fresh  interpretation  of  how  dance  music  should  be  played, 
a  race  of  "jitterbugs"  sprang  up  to  prove  that  the  Great  American 
Band-Wagon  was  still  lumbering  along  its  appointed  course  for 
all  the  bumps  and  jolts  of  the  depression. 

Swing  was  actually,  again  to  quote  the  musical  theorists,  a 
return  to  the  musical  language  of  jazz,  whose  original  glories  had 
become  somewhat  dimmed  by  commercialization.  It  carried  one 
step  further  the  free  improvising  that  had  marked  the  playing 
of  the  first  jazz  bands.  But  it  too  became  commercialized  as 
quickly  as  had  jazz  after  1914,  and  in  its  popular  manifestations 
differed  only  in  degree  from  music  to  which  America  had  long 
since  become  accustomed.36  The  new  orchestras  nevertheless 
created  a  tremendous  stir.  They  swung  the  compositions  of  the 
great  composers;  they  swung  the  verses  of  old  nursery  rhymes. 
Although  it  did  not  create  anything  like  the  excitement  of  its 
revolt  in  the  1920*s,  the  younger  generation  again  kicked  up  its 
heels.  When  Benny  Goodman's  orchestra  first  opened  in  New 


York,  a  theatre  audience  largely  made  up  of  high-school  students 
became  so  hysterically  enthusiastic  that  staid  observers  com- 
pared the  scene  to  accounts  of  the  children's  crusades. 

New  dances  accompanied  the  upsurge  of  swing  music.  At 
country  club  and  roadhouse,  private  party  and  public  dance-hall, 
the  generation  of  the  1930's  tried  its  hand  at  trucking  took  up 
and  then  as  quickly  dropped  the  big  apple,  the  shag,  the  Lam- 
beth Walk,  and  the  chestnut  tree.  The  times  had  not  really 
changed.  "If  there  is  anything  designed  to  create  more  consterna- 
tion in  the  national  bosom  than  the  new  style  in  women's  hats/* 
an  editorial  writer  in  the  Milwaukee  Journal  observed,  "it  is  un- 
doubtedly the  new  dances."  ST 

Toward  the  close  of  the  decade  the  quintessence  of  harmless 
idiocy  seemed  to  have  been  reached  in  some  of  the  musical  fads 
taken  up  by  night  clubs,  now  legitimately  serving  the  alcoholic 
drinks  which  were  such  an  essential  part  of  their  entertainment. 
The  caf6  society  of  New  York  danced  to  "Where  Is  My  Little 
Dog  Gone?"  and  "London  Bridge  Is  Falling  Down,"  played 
Patty  Cake,  Patty  Cake,  and,  as  the  orchestra  obligingly  swung 
it,  mincingly  sang: 

Down  in  de  meddy  by  de  itty  bitty  poo 
Fam  -wee  itty  fitty  and  a  mama  fitty,  foo. 
*Fim,*  said  de  mama  fitty,  'fim  if  oo  tan* 
And  dey  fam  and  dey  fam  all  over  de  dam.88 



movies,  automobile,  and  radio  and  the  rapid  progression  of 
popular  fads  and  fancies,  there  was  a  no  less  significant  expansion 
of  sports.  From  prize-fights  drawing  the  largest  spectator  crowds 
since  the  gladiatorial  combats  of  Imperial  Rome  to  a  sudden 
craze  for  skiing  which  packed  winter  excursion  trains  throughout 
the  North,  they  boomed  as  never  before.  If  the  American  people 
actually  spent  more  time  motoring,  going  to  the  movies,  and  lis- 
tening to  the  radio,  their  interest  in  sports  often  appeared  to 
transcend  that  in  anything  else. 

In  1905  Viscount  Bryce  had  found  one  of  the  most  noticeable 
innovations  in  the  life  of  the  American  people  since  his  earlier 
visits  "the  passion  for  looking  on  at  and  reading  about  athletic 
sports."  Baseball  games  and  football  matches  were  exciting  "an 
interest  greater  than  any  other  public  events  except  the  Presi- 
dential election/*  1  Within  a  few  years  the  expansion  of  the  news- 
paper sports  section  intensified  this  absorption,  and  as  time  went 
on  it  was  still  further  promoted  by  moving  pictures  and  radio 

But  while  critics  of  the  American  scene  declared  we  were 
becoming  a  nation  of  onlookers,  that  the  sports  people  watched 
rather  than  played  were  creating  a  degenerate  race  getting  out- 
doors only  at  a  stadium  or  ball  park  and  exercising  only  in  the 
short  walk  from  the  parked  sedan  to  the  entrance  gate,  a  less 
spectacular  growth  of  active  sports  was  actually  bringing  about 
a  quite  opposite  development.  By  the  1920?s  and  1930's  far  more 
people  than  ever  before  were  themselves  taking  part  in  games 



and  athletics.  Active  sports  experienced  a  post-war  revival  com- 
parable to  the  first  surge  of  popular  interest  in  the  years  follow- 
ing the  Civil  War.  And  they  had  now  so  expanded  that  the 
urban  democracy,  as  well  as  the  middle  class  and  the  fashionable 
world,  had  regained  those  opportunities  for  play  which  had  been 
largely  lost  during  the  industrial  changes  of  the  nineteenth 

The  really  important  development  that  had  taken  place  since 
organized  sports  first  won  their  hold  in  America  was  illustrated 
by  the  growth  of  recreational  facilities  in  the  cities— playgrounds, 
athletic  fields,  Softball  diamonds,  public  tennis-courts  and  golf- 
links.  And  almost  equally  significant  was  the  part  played  by  the 
automobile  in  making  the  country— seashore  and  mountain—ac- 
cessible to  countless  workers  who  had  formerly  been  completely 
cut  off  from  it.  The  millions  of  visitors  at  national  parks  and  even 
greater  crowds  at  bathing-beaches  of  themselves  marked  a  gain 
which  far  outweighed  the  much  more  publicized  growth  of 

Sensing  a  need  already  apparent  in  the  mid-nineteenth  century, 
Walt  Whitman  had  written  that  "democracy  most  of  all  affiliates 
with  the  open  air."  He  felt  that  without  access  to  the  revitalizing 
influence  of  the  open  country,  America  could  not  develop  its 
"grand  races  of  mechanics,  work  people,  and  commonalty. , . ."  2 
But  not  until  about  1905  was  this  issue  really  taken  up.  An  or- 
ganized recreation  movement  then  got  under  way  (some  twenty 
years  earlier  a  start  had  been  made  with  the  first  provision  of 
public  playgrounds  for  children),  and  there  followed  a  steady 
increase  in  city  parks,  equipped  with  all  manner  of  sports  facil- 
ities, which  were  available  for  the  use  of  the  general  public.8 

This  movement  progressed  slowly  for  the  next  quarter-century 
and  then  was  given  a  tremendous  impetus  by  the  depression.  In 
the  early  1930's,  through  the  Works  Progress  Administration,  the 
aid  of  the  Federal  Government  was  extended  to  the  municipal 
recreation  programs.  By  the  close  of  1937  some  $500,000,000 
(about  ten  per  cent  of  the  W.P.A/S  total  expenditures)  had  been 

Pioneer  Sportswomen 


allotted  for  building  3,700  recreational  buildings,  881  new  parks, 
1,500  athletic  fields,  440  swimming-pools,  3,500  tennis-courts,  123 
golf-courses,  and  28  miles  of  ski  trails.4  Twelve  hundred  cities 
had  in  all  seventeen  thousand  acres  of  parks  reserved  for  sports 
activities,  and  they  were  annually  spending  $60,000,000  on  their 
upkeep.  Bathing-beaches  and  swimming-pools,  with  an  estimated 
annual  attendance  of  some  200,000,000,  were  the  most  popular 
of  their  facilities,  but  there  were  also  8,800  softball  diamonds  and 
3,600  baseball  diamonds  at  which  the  player  attendance  was 
estimated  at  31,000,000;  2,400  ice  skating-rinks  with  an  attendance 
of  13,000,000;  11,000  tennis-courts  with  an  attendance  of  11,000,- 
000;  and  public  golf-courses  used  by  a  total  of  8,000,000.5 

Here  was  the  truly  democratic  approach  to  this  phase  of 
recreation.  These  millions  of  urban  workers—men,  women,  and 
children— were  finally  enjoying  the  organized  sports  that  had 
been  introduced  by  the  fashionable  world  half  a  century  and 
more  earlier.  Democracy  was  making  good  its  right  to  play  the 
games  formerly  limited  to  the  small  class  that  had  the  wealth 
and  leisure  to  escape  the  city.  No  exact  totals  can  possibly  be 
given  as  to  the  number  of  active  sports  participants  in  com- 
parison with  attendance  at  sports  spectacles  in  the  1930's.  Nobody 
really  knows  how  many  people  played  softball  or  tennis,  went 
motor-boating  or  skiing.  But  the  available  evidence  clearly  shows 
that  in  the  first  forty  years  of  the  twentieth  century  there  was 
a  far  greater  increase  in  the  number  of  those  who  played  than 
in  the  number  of  those  who  watched,  and  there  is  every  reason 
to  believe  that  in  the  1930's  the  public  was  spending  far  more 
of  its  leisure— and  statistics  prove  that  it  was  spending  four  times 
as  much  money— on  amateur  than  on  professional  sports.6 

In  comparison  with  other  countries,  more  especially  those 
which  were  under  a  totalitarian  form  of  government,  the  promo- 
tion of  organized  outdoor  recreation  in  the  United  States  still 
lagged.  Russia  had  its  great  parks  of  culture  and  rest,  Germany 
a  nation-wide  system  of  people's  recreation  centers  with  huge 
stadia,  playing-fields,  and  swimming-pools.  There  were  such 


foreign  organizations,  with  which  nothing  in  this  country  was 
quite  comparable,  as  the  Strength  through  Joy  movement  in 
Germany,  the  Ready  for  Work  and  Defense  association  in  Russia, 
and  Italy's  National  Leisure-Time  Institute.7  All  the  difference  in 
the  world,  however,  lay  between  the  totalitarian  and  the  Amer- 
ican approach  to  this  form  of  recreation.  The  one  was  a  defiant 
alliance  between  the  need  for  popular  sports  and  preparedness 
for  war—  controlled,  ordered,  regimented.  The  other  had  no  con- 
nection with  military  training  and  was  wholly  free  from  any 
suggestion  of  compulsion  or  regimentation.  In  the  totalitarian 
countries  the  trend  was  very  definitely  toward  the  obligatory 
use  of  leisure  time  in  the  interests  of  the  State;  in  America  it 
was  toward  broader  opportunities  for  play  as  the  people  might 
choose  to  take  advantage  of  them  in  accord  with  their  own  needs 
and  interests. 

IN  MANY  WAYS  the  outstanding  spectator  sport  of  the  192Cfs  and 
1930's  was  intercollegiate  football.  It  had  a  far  larger  following 
than  the  relatively  select  crowds  that  had  originally  supported  it, 
the  short  fall  season  representing  for  countless  sports  enthusiasts 
the  climax  of  the  year.  The  millions  who  every  Saturday  afternoon 
made  their  way  to  the  games  were  supplemented  by  many  more 
millions  who  hovered  over  their  radios  in  comfortable  steam- 
heated  living-rooms  to  follow  them  play  by  play,  and  then  spent 
Sunday  mornings  devouring  long  accounts  in  the  sports  sections 
of  how  it  all  had  happened.  Football  reigned  supreme  from  the 
opening  of  early-season  practice  to  the  Tournament  of  Roses.  *lt 
is  at  present  a  religion/'  a  contributor  to  Harpers  stated  in  1928 
—'sometimes  it  seems  to  be  almost  our  national  religion."  8 

After  the  reforms  adopted  in  the  1890's  had  enabled  football 
to  regain  a  position  threatened  by  professionalism  and  roughness, 
it  had  had  to  go  through  still  another  crisis  in  1905.  Injuries  and 
even  fatalities  (the  death-roll  had  reached  forty-four  in  1903) 
had  become  so  general  that  tie  press  was  uniformly  condemning 


the  game  and  many  colleges  were  planning  to  abolish  it.  Foot- 
ball became  a  national  issue,  President  Roosevelt  inviting  its 
leaders  to  a  White  House  conference,  and  public  opinion  forced 
a  number  of  reforms.  The  forward  pass,  the  on-side  kick,  sepa- 
ration of  the  rush  lines,  were  devised  to  make  it  less  dangerous, 
and  these  innovations  gradually  led  to  a  more  open— and  also 
more  interesting— game.9 

Crowds  of  fifty  thousand  soon  began  to  attend  many  other 
contests  than  those  between  Harvard,  Yale,  and  Princeton,  and  in 
the  post-war  decade  football,  joyously  took  part  in  the  dazzling 
upward  movement  which  characterized  everything  about  those 
years  from  women's  skirts  to  stock-market  prices.  Sensing  their 
opportunity,  universities  and  colleges  covered  the  country  with 
great  concrete  stadia  whose  total  capacity  exceeded  two  millions. 
Yale  and  California  had  bowls  seating  eighty  thousand;  Illinois, 
Michigan,  Ohio  State,  and  several  others  provided  for  seventy 
thousand.10  Empty  almost  every  day  of  the  year  except  those  fab- 
ulous Saturday  afternoons  in  the  autumn,  the  quickened  interest 
of  the  public  then  taxed  all  available  facilities.  It  was  estimated 
that  during  the  season  anywhere  from  ten  to  thirty  millions  (at- 
tendance generally  doubling  between  1921  and  1930 1X )  watched 
a  game  which  had  been  almost  entirely  taken  away  from  college 
graduate  or  undergraduate  and  given  over  to  a  sports-hungry 
public  which  supported  football  as  a  grandiose  commercial 

It  was  a  colorful,  exciting  show.  Every  year  saw  a  new  sensa- 
tion: the  "praying  colonels"  of  Centre  College  blazing  through 
the  sky  like  a  meteor,  and  as  quickly  fading  out;  Princeton's 
"Team  of  Destiny"  briefly  lighting  up  the  dimmed  prestige  of 
the  one-time  Big  Three;  the  Four  Horsemen  of  Notre  Dame 
galloping  down  a  dozen  fields  to  win  new  laurels  for  Knute 
Rockne;  and  Red  Grange,  a  team  by  himself,  flashing  past  all 
other  heroes  in  football's  hall  of  fame.  In  this  glamorous  period 
the  line  between  intercollegiate  football  and  the  newly  popular 
professional  game  was  sometimes  hardly  distinguishable.  Red 


Grange  was  one  of  those  who  after  playing  his  last  college  season 
definitely  stepped  over  it.  While  student  admirers  framed  his 
football  jersey  at  Illinois  ( also  circulating  a  petition  to  nominate 
him  for  Congress),  he  joined  the  Chicago  Bears,  collected  $30,000 
in  his  first  game,  signed  a  $300,000  movie  contract,  and  was  pre- 
sented to  President  Coolidge.12  Here  was  fame,  and  also  fortune. 

Educators  were  not  wholly  pleased  with  an  emphasis  on  the 
sport  that  made  the  academic  standing  of  their  institutions  so 
negligible  a  factor  in  comparison  with  a  football  championship. 
Many  of  them  felt  that  a  commercial  amusement  business,  what- 
ever the  advertising  value  of  a  winning  team  or  the  magnitude  of 
the  gate  receipts,  did  not  fall  within  the  functions  of  a  university. 
But  the  general  public,  and  also  the  greater  part  of  the  nation's 
college  alumni,  only  asked  for  more  victories.  Their  attitude  to- 
ward the  criticism  voiced  by  the  professorial  fraternity  was  aptly 
expressed  in  an  editorial  in  Liberty.  This  popular  magazine  found 
the  protesting  faculty  members  jealous.  "The  problem  is  not  the 
elimination  or  restriction  of  football,"  Liberty  warned,  "but  how 
long  it  will  be  before  red-blooded  colleges  demand  the  elimina- 
tion or  the  restriction  of  those  afflicted  with  this  inferiority  com- 

In  1929  football  had  to  withstand  the  shock  of  a  distressing 
disclosure  of  overemphasis  and  professionalism  in  a  report  of  the 
Carnegie  Foundation.  But  the  old  fires  of  controversy  as  to  its 
place  in  college  life  could  not  be  fanned  into  a  very  fierce  flame. 
There  was  too  great  a  vested  interest  in  the  game.  An  influence 
far  more  seriously  adverse  was  the  depression.  It  affected  the 
sale  of  big-game  tickets  just  as  severely  as  that  of  any  market 
commodity.  Nevertheless  intercollegiate  football  withstood  these 
slings  of  outrageous  fortune;  it  kept  its  hold  on  the  public.  After  a 
few  comparatively  slim  years  it  was  again  crowding  its  stadia  to 
capacity,  creating  successive  generations  of  national  heroes,  and 
monopolizing  the  radio  every  Saturday  throughout  the  fall. 

Then  there  was  baseball.  In  the  number  of  persons  who  actu- 
ally watched  the  game,  its  longer  season  made  it  even  a  little  more 


important.  But  except  for  the  World  Series  between  the  winners 
in  the  National  and  American  leagues,  there  had  been  since  the 
beginning  of  the  century  a  relative  decline  in  baseball's  popu- 
larity. Small-town  games  had  definitely  suffered  an  eclipse  from 
the  growth  of  so  many  other  sports;  interest  in  college  baseball 
was  waning;  and  attendance  at  professional-league  gamesjiad 
not  kept  pace  with  the  population  growth  of  the  cities  supporting 
teams.  An  actual  decline  between  1920  and  1930  was  reported 
by  several  minor  leagues.  An  eleven  per  cent  gain  for  the  majors, 
to  an  annual  total  of  ten  millions,  compared  with  a  twenty  per 
cent  population  growth  in  this  same  period,14  and  in  succeeding 
years  attendance  did  no  better  than  hold  these  levels. 

Nevertheless,  the  publicity  given  baseball  (its  monopolizing  of 
evening-paper  head-lines)  afforded  good  evidence  that  for  the 
public  at  large  it  was  still  the  national  game.  And  the  World 
Series  remained  an  event  of  the  greatest  importance.  Attendance 
fluctuated.  In  1923  it  was  over  300,000,  twice  that  ten  years 
earlier,  but  the  next  decade  saw  it  as  low  as  164,000  one  year, 
and  over  300,000  only  once.15  Baseball  had  its  national  heroes. 
The  greatest  of  them,  Babe  Ruth,  was  at  the  peak  of  his  fame  in 
the  1920's.  No  athletic  figure  has  ever  won  greater  renown  than 
this  Sultan  of  Swat  with  his  season  record  of  sixty  home  runs. 

More  typical  of  the  ballyhoo  spirit  that  characterized  profes- 
sional athletics  was  prize-fighting.  Tex  Rickard  took  over  this 
once  disapproved  and  banned  sport,  and  with  a  genius  for  show- 
manship which  rivaled  that  of  P.  T.  Barnum,  he  made  it  at  once 
respectable  and  glamorous.  The  fashionable  world  fought  for 
tickets  whose  high  prices  were  in  themselves  proof  that  prize- 
fighting had  undergone  some  sort  of  moral  regeneration.  Women 
forgot  their  traditional  scruples  in  enjoying  the  ring's  primitive 
combat.  The  sporting  men,  who  were  only  a  flashier,  better- 
dressed  counterpart  (with  more  money  to  bet)  of  the  nineteenth- 
century  fancy,  happily  paid  whatever  the  speculators  demanded 
for  their  ringside  seats.  Championship  bouts  came  in  rapid  suc- 
cession, each  occasion  being  built  up  with  the  wining  aid  of  the 


press  to  a  greater  climax  than  the  one  before.  The  public  mania 
for  watching  sports  reached  an  all-time  high  in  a  series  of  bouts 
in  the  1920's  which  dwarfed  all  that  had  gone  before. 

There  had  been  a  succession  of  world  champions  since  James 
J.  Corbett  (all  of  eight  thousand  persons  watching  the  epic  en- 
counter) had  dethroned  the  great  John  L.  in  1892:  Robert  Pro- 
metheus Fitzsimmons,  James  J.  Jeffries,  Tommy  Burns,  Jack  John- 
son, and  finally  Jess  Willard.  But  the  new  era  in  prize-fighting 
started  when  Jack  Dempsey  successfully  challenged  Willard  at 
Toledo  in  1919  and  Mr.  Rickard  added  up  gate  receipts  of  $452,- 
000.  By  the  alchemy  of  clever  publicity  he  had  made  the  nation 
fight-conscious,  and  it  clamored  for  bigger  and  better  battles. 
Georges  Carpentier,  a  handsome,  flashy  Frenchman,  went  down 
before  Dempsey's  flailing  fists  at  the  Battle  of  the  Century  at 
Boyle's  Forty  Acres  in  Jersey  City,  and  soon  afterwards  Luis 
Angel  Firpo,  the  Wild  Bull  of  the  Pampas.  Million-dollar  gates 
became  the  rule  for  a  championship  bout— with  radio  broadcasts, 
movie  rights,  testimonials,  and  other  activities  building  up  what 
had  once  been  an  outlawed  sport  into  a  big-time  industry  le- 
galized in  fifteen  states  as  Tboxing  contests/' 16 

Gene  Tunney,  who  was  to  walk  with  the  novelist  Thornton 
Wilder  and  talk  with  the  literary  critic  William  Lyon  Phelps,  was 
the  nemesis  of  the  heretofore  invincible  Mr.  Dempsey.  The  crowd 
that  watched  him  win  the  championship  at  the  Philadelphia 
Sesqui-centennial  in  1926  broke  all  records,  but  they  were  shat- 
tered again  at  Chicago  in  a  return  bout  the  next  year.  Twenty- 
four  special  trains  rolled  into  town  for  the  great  event.  There 
were  145,000  spectators  at  Soldiers  Field,  with  two  hundred 
millionaires  in  the  first  ten  rows.  Many  of  those  in  the  tremendous 
crowd  were  so  far  away  from  the  ring  that  they  could  not  tell 
through  the  fog  of  cigarette  smoke  that  Tunney  had  won  the 
fight.  It  hardly  mattered.  They  had  paid  $2,650,000  for  admission 
and  were  happy.  Every  spectator  felt  he  had  watched  history 
being  made,  and  many  more— how  many  millions  could  hardly 
be  said— heard  it  being  made  over  the  radio.  Five  listeners  to  the 


account  of  the  fight  were  reported  to  have  dropped  dead  of 
heart-failure  when  Tunney  went  down  in  the  seventh  round.17 

Prize-fighting  could  not  quite  adapt  itself  to  the  high  standards 
with  which  the  new  champion  sought  to  endow  it.  He  was  never 
popular.  And  his  fortune  made  (almost  $2,000,000  in  two  years), 
Tunney  retired.18  The  day  of  million-dollar  gates  was  over— at 
least  for  the  time  being.  Not  until  another  colored  champion,  Joe 
Louis,  arose  in  the  late  1930*s  (breaking  new  records  by  the  ease 
with  which  he  knocked  out  a  succession  of  second-rate  chal- 
lengers) did  prize-fighting  recover  some  of  its  lost  glamour.  Even 
then  attendance  at  his  bouts  was  hardly  comparable  to  that  at 
the  epic  Dempsey-Tunney  encounters. 

Other  spectator  events  drew  large  crowds.  The  professionaliza- 
tion  of  new  sports,  the  building  of  huge  arenas,  and  the  extension 
of  night  playing  ( in  baseball  and  football  as  well  as  hockey  and 
basketball)  contributed  to  their  growing  popularity.  Race-track 
attendance  exceeded  all  previous  figures  in  the  1920's,  partly 
owing  to  the  sensational  victories  of  Man  o*  War,  and  in  1930 
Gallant  Fox  awoke  a  fresh  enthusiasm  with  his  successive  tri- 
umphs in  the  Kentucky  Derby,  the  Preakness,  and  the  Belmont 
Stakes.  Greyhound  racing,  another  old  sport,  had  a  sudden 
revival.  The  publicity  attendant  upon  the  Olympic  Games— re- 
vived in  the  1890's  and  regularly  won  by  the  United  States- 
created  widespread  interest  in  athletic  meets  and  the  hard-fought 
races  of  champion  long-distance  runners.  Six-day  bicycle  and 
automobile  races  retained  their  old  popularity  (the  crowd  at 
Indianapolis  in  1939  was  estimated  at  145,000);  professional 
hockey  and  professional  football  forged  ahead;  there  was  new 
interest  in  wrestling;  and  even  tennis  became  a  spectator  sport. 
With  professional  as  well  as  amateur  teams  in  the  field— but 
perhaps  most  of  all  because  of  the  high-school  craze  of  the 
Middle  West— basketball  was  reported  to  be  attracting  an  even 
greater  aggregate  attendance  than  the  more  head-lined  events. 

It  was  sometimes  confusing  to  find  one's  way  through  the 
maze  of  sporting  news.  This  is  station  KDKAWXJEAZFOW,"  one 


magazine  writer  transcribed  a  radio  station's  broadcast  for  a 
typical  day.  "The  boys  are  in  top-notch  condition  and  as  the  first 
ball  was  pitched  Epinard  broke  clean  and  scored  two  goals  on 
a  good  mashie  pitch  that  just  cleared  the  rightfield  stands  and 
narrowly  missed  killing  Tilden's  backhand  three  inches  from  the 
cup  when  the  entire  Washington  team  was  awarded  to  McGraw 
on  points  just  as  the  chukker  ended.  Listen  to  the  cheering!"  19 
Whenever  international  competition  entered  the  picture,  public 
interest  was  still  further  heightened  by  the  dramatic  conquests 
of  American  teams  and  American  players  in  almost  every  field 
of  so-called  amateur  sport.  The  successive  victories  in  the 
Olympic  Games,  in  the  Davis  Cup  tennis  matches,  in  the  British- 
American  golf  matches  for  the  Walker  Cup,  and  in  the  America's 
Cup  yacht-races  all  added  to  the  popular  excitement. 

The  country  appeared  sports-crazy,  and  every  reading  of  the 
daily  paper  confirmed  it.  In  1919  charges  of  bribe-taking  against 
the  Chicago  White  Sox  created  more  of  a  stir  than  similar  charges 
a  few  years  later  against  members  of  the  President's  Cabinet. 
In  1928  Tilden's  debarment  from  amateur  tennis  ranks  drove 
election  news,  the  assassination  of  Mexico's  president-elect,  and 
a  search  for  lost  aviators  in  the  Arctic  off  the  front  pages  of  the 
evening  newspapers.20 

So  MUCH  for  spectator  sports.  Among  the  outdoor  activities  in 
which  the  public  participated,  hunting  and  fishing  were  still 
leaders.  Almost  twelve  million  licenses  were  being  taken  out 
annually  for  the  field  sports  which  had  remained  since  colonial 
days  in  a  class  almost  by  themselves  in  American  recreation.  In- 
terested manufacturers  claimed  that  over  eight  million  men  and 
women  remained  addicts  of  the  ever-popular  amusement  of 
bowling,  and  there  were  tremendous  numbers  of  softball  players, 
trap-shooters  (with  the  great  popularity  of  skeet),  and  tennis- 
players.21  But  the  businessman—  hero  of  the  age—  had  taken  over 
golf  in  post-war  America  and  made  the  game  his  own.  It  may 


have  been  played  by  fewer  people,  but  it  was  the  fashionable 
sports  leader. 

In  1910  the  number  of  courses  scattered  throughout  the  coun- 
try had  already  grown  to  several  hundred,  and  there  were  an 
estimated  half-million  players.22  Golf  was  no  longer  regarded 
as  a  fad.  Its  devotees  had  put  away  their  red  coats  and  leggings; 
they  were  seriously  getting  down  to  business.  Champions  on  a 
par  with  those  of  England  were  showing  the  way—Jerome  D. 
Travis,  Francis  Ouimet,  and  W.  C.  Hagen.  More  than  any  other 
sport  so  far  developed,  golf  appeared  to  be  the  answer  to  the 
middle-class  need  for  outdoor  exercise.  Every  year  new  links 
were  built  as  the  game's  advantages  became  more  widely  known. 

The  World  War  did  not  interrupt  this  movement.  In  1916 
there  were  743  courses,  in  1930  a  total  of  5,856— a  sevenfold  in- 
crease in  fourteen  years.  Every  town  of  any  size  at  all  boasted  at 
least  one.  The  number  of  players  had  risen  to  two  million.  Nor 
was  all  this  golf  for  the  privileged.  There  were  over  twelve  hun- 
dred daily-fee  or  public  courses,  and  every  year  clerks  and  office- 
workers  were  taking  up  the  game  in  greater  numbers.23  "The 
democracy  of  golf  to-day,"  Grandand  Rice  wrote  in  1928,  "has 
gone  far  beyond  that  of  any  other  sport/* 24  But  for  all  the  im- 
portance of  these  facts  and  figures,  what  gave  golf  its  unique 
status  was  the  sacred  aura  that  clung  about  it.  Every  ambitious 
member  of  the  white-collar  class  tried  to  follow  his  boss  around 
the  links.  Golf  was  a  fascinating  sport,  a  healthful  outdoor  pas- 
time. It  was  also  the  ladder  to  business  and  social  success  in  the 
extravagant  days  that  accompanied  the  recovery  from  the  im- 
mediate post-war  depression. 

Certainly  one  of  the  most  characteristic  social  manifestations 
of  the  1920*$  was  the  ritual  that  grew  up  about  this  sport.  Mem- 
bership in  a  country  club  became  a  first  requisite  for  the  social 
climber;  to  be  able  to  play  a  good  game  was  essential  for  the 
young  man  who  wanted  to  get  ahead.  It  was  an  era  of  baggy  plus- 
fours,  with  tasseled  wool  stockings;  of  determined  foursomes 
playing  their  eighteen-hole  matches  in  a  fiercely  competitive 


spirit  taken  over  directly  from  their  business  deals;  of  endless  dis- 
cussions at  "the  nineteenth  hole"  about  the  latest  exploits  of 
Bobby  Jones,  the  game's  own  superchampion. 

Women  also  took  up  golf.  But  they  played  during  the  week 
and  retired  gracefully  to  club  verandahs  for  tea  and  bridge  when 
Saturday  afternoon  brought  out  their  husbands.  Men's  foursomes 
were  the  outstanding  feature  of  country-club  life,  especially  in 
the  suburbs.  The  weekly  handicap  tournament  was  the  great 
event  to  which  hundreds  of  thousands  of  commuters  looked  for- 
ward from  Monday  to  Saturday.  There  was  no  pretense  of  ob- 
serving the  Sabbath— the  bicycle,  motoring,  and  now  golf  had 
stripped  it  of  all  semblance  of  a  day  of  rest.  Church  was  for- 
gotten, the  home  neglected,  wives  deserted  for  the  lure  of  the 

Golf  was  expensive.  Membership  in  a  club  with  its  heavy  out- 
lay for  keeping  up  the  course;  caddy  fees,  clubs,  and  the  constant 
replenishment  of  balls;  all  the  paraphernalia  of  such  a  socially 
correct  activity,  resulted  in  more  money  being  spent  on  the 
game  than  on  any  other  sport.  With  a  nation-wide  investment  in 
courses  of  $850,000,000,  it  was  conservatively  estimated  in  1929 
that  the  country's  golfers  were  paying  $200,000,000  a  year  for  the 
privilege  of  enjoying  their  favorite  diversion.25 

The  depression  had  a  devastating  effect.  Almost  every  club 
found  itself  with  greatly  reduced  membership  and  many  of  them 
opened  their  onetime  exclusive  preserves  to  all  comers.  Some 
were  forced  to  close.  The  end  of  the  era  of  high-pressure 
salesmanship,  when  the  stock  broker  and  bond  salesman  had 
found  the  golf-course  one  of  the  most  profitable  fields  of  oper- 
ation, took  something  of  the  bloom  off  the  ancient  and  honorable 
game.  But  its  place  in  national  life  was  too  well  established  for 
it  to  lose  its  popularity  despite  its  lessened  value  as  an  adjunct 
to  business  and  social  life.  Public  courses  increased  at  the  ex- 
pense of  private  clubs.  In  1935  the  total  number  of  golfers  was 
placed  at  a  somewhat  lower  figure  than  six  years  earlier,  but 
there  were  more  players  on  municipal  links.  Golf  had  been 


socially  deflated,  and  it  was  approaching  closer  to  the  demo- 
cratic ideal.26 

Tennis  also  had  made  remarkable  progress  during  these  years, 
evolving  into  a  game  which  bore  little  resemblance  to  that  polite 
pastime  of  the  1890's  which  was  considered  so  well  adapted  for 
ladies  and  gentlemen.  It  became  more  active,  hard-hitting,  and 
competitive.  It  was  taken  up  by  a  continually  broadening  circle 
of  players.  As  the  champions  of  golf,  and  the  publicity  given 
their  matches,  served  to  promote  that  sport,  tournament  winners 
and  Davis  Cup  players  provided  the  ballyhoo  for  tennis.  And  in 
the  1920's  William  T.  Tilden  became  as  idolized  as  Babe  Ruth 
or  Bobby  Jones.  He  was  one  of  the  era's  bright  galaxy  of  popular 

In  costumes  which  would  have  horrified  her  Victorian  fore- 
bears, the  modern  woman  also  played  the  new  tennis.  The  glam- 
orous Suzanne  Lenglen  and  phenomenal  Helen  Wills,  short- 
skirted,  bare-legged,  developed  a  game  which  compared 
favorably  with  that  of  all  but  the  greatest  of  the  men  players. 
Thousands  of  girls  followed  their  lead.  More  important,  they 
continued  to  play  far  past  that  age  at  which  the  ideal  of  "female 
delicacy"  had  once  decreed  embroidery  and  china-painting  as 
the  only  approved  pursuits  for  women,  had  placed  the  stamp  of 
fashion  on  "the  slender,  and  delicate,  and  fragile  form— the  pale, 
sallow,  and  waxen  complexion." 

Clubs  affiliated  with  the  United  States  Lawn  Tennis  Asso- 
ciation by  no  means  afford  a  complete  picture  of  what  had  hap- 
pened in  the  world  of  tennis.  Their  courts  were  only  a  fraction 
of  a  total  which  included  those  of  country  clubs,  municipalities, 
and  private  owners.  But  their  increase  provides  a  key  to  the 
game's  growing  popularity.  In  1910  there  were  160  member  clubs, 
and  ten  years  later  294.  The  next  decade  saw  this  figure  doubled, 
and  by  1933  it  was  almost  a  thousand.  The  number  of  tennis- 
players  had  risen  by  the  1930's  to  some  three  or  four  millions, 
with  about  a  quarter  of  the  total  representing  players  on  public 


A  new  sport  that  had  a  great  boom  in  the  1930*8  was  softball. 
It  was  a  modified  form  of  baseball— the  chief  difference  between 
the  two  games  being  adequately  expressed  in  its  name—  and  its 
easier,  more  informal  style  of  play  attracted  thousands  of  adults 
who  left  the  original  game  to  young  men  and  boys.  Softball 
teams  were  formed  by  groups  representing  every  element  in 
American  society— industrial  workers  and  suburban  commuters, 
church  leaguers  and  employees  of  the  New  York  Stock  Exchange, 
members  of  fashionable  country  clubs  and  of  local  village  or- 
ganizations. There  were  women  players,  in  teams  made  up  of 
business  employees,  Y.W.C.A.  members,  or  factory  operatives. 

The  game  had  been  known  under  various  names  for  some  time. 
It  was  being  played  as  kitten  ball  in  St.  Paul  about  1912,  and  in 
other  places  it  was  called  indoor  baseball,  mush  ball,  or  recrea- 
tion ball.  But  its  boom  followed  the  organization,  in  1933,  of  the 
Amateur  Softball  Association  of  America*  Through  its  promo- 
tional work,  sponsorship  of  regional  tournaments,  and  estab- 
lishment of  an  annual  world  series,  softball  became  a  craze  which 
spread  over  the  land  much  as  had  the  earlier  crazes  for  croquet, 
roller-skating,  and  bicycling.  The  Softball  Association  soon 
claimed  a  membership  larger  than  that  of  any  other  amateur 
sports  body  in  the  world,  and  there  were  an  estimated  eight  thou- 
sand diamonds  in  some  eight  hundred  cities.  In  1938  ten  million 
people— including  a  greater  number  of  adult  players  than  pos- 
sibly in  any  other  sport— were  reported  to  have  taken  up  the 

Industrial  plants  welcomed  it  as  one  of  the  most  practical  ways 
of  promoting  the  nation-wide  movement  to  provide  outdoor 
exercise  for  employees.  It  was  an  outstanding  symbol  of  the 
twentieth  century's  approach  to  recreation,  of  the  recovery  for 
factory-workers  of  the  play  opportunities  they  had  so  long  been 
lacking.  Softball  was  played  on  week-ends  and  holidays,  at  the 
lunch  hour  and  after  work,  on  flood-lighted  diamonds  during 
the  evening. 

One  of  the  most  interesting  developments  in  these  years  was 


Atlanta  girls  in  ac- 
tion.  Wide  World 

College  Basketball 

Gymnasium  o£  the  Univer- 
sity of  California.  Courtesy 
of  the  Associated  Students 
News  Bureau. 

Ski  Tracks  in  the  Rockies 

The  ski-lift  on  Dollar  Mountain,  Sun  Valley,  Idaho.  Courtesy  of  the  Union 
Pacific  Railroad. 

On  the  Beach 
at  Coney  Island 

A    holiday    crowd 

of  bathers,  sea  and 

sun,  in  1939.  Wide 

World   Photos. 


the  rise  of  skiing.  An  old  sport  in  northern  Europe,  it  reached  the 
United  States  by  way  of  Norwegian  settlers  who  organized  the 
country's  pioneer  ski  dub  at  Red  Wing,  Minnesota,  in  1883.29  It 
was  not  until  half  a  century  later,  however,  that  it  became  a  fad 
throughout  the  northern  states,  and  especially  New  England, 
where  a  combination  of  snow  and  mountains  made  it  an  ideal 
winter  sport. 

The  revived  interest  in  the  out-of-doors  was  primarily  re- 
sponsible for  its  sudden  popularity— people  could  have  skied  as 
well  in  earlier  periods.  But  when  about  1929  a  few  enthusiasts 
began  preaching  the  gospel  of  the  ski,  a  public  which  had  hardly 
heard  of  the  sport  found  itself  carried  away.  The  department 
stores  installed  borax  slides  and  imported  Austrian  instructors; 
the  railroads  ran  special  trains  to  the  skiing  country  and  organ- 
ized week-end  excursions.  Quick  to  sense  the  unexpected  gold 
in  their  snow-covered  hills,  fanners  everywhere  prepared  to  rent 
rooms  and  provide  food  for  the  city  skiers  who  began  to  dot 
every  good  slope.  A  steadily  growing  band  of  fanatics  hung  on 
the  week-end  weather  forecasts;  argued  furiously  over  waxes, 
bindings,  and  the  merits  of  the  stem  Christy  as  against  the  tele- 
mark;  and  then  went  out  to  endanger  life  and  limb  in  hazardous 
plunges  down  slope  and  trail. 

Skiing  was  a  limited  sport.  It  could  be  practised  only  in  certain 
parts  of  the  country,  during  a  very  short  season  of  the  year.  And 
though  it  followed  the  usual  course  of  gradually  reaching  a  wider 
and  wider  public,  the  expense  of  equipment  and  transportation 
was  another  restrictive  factor.  Granted  these  limitations,  its  quick 
rise  to  a  major  winter  sport  nevertheless  afforded  still  another 
striking  illustration  of  how  sport-conscious  the  country  had  be- 
come, how  eager  great  numbers  of  people  were  to  take  part  in 
sports  as  well  as  watch  them.  In  1930  there  were  only  a  handful 
of  skiers  in  the  United  States,  too  few  to  consider  in  any  survey 
of  recreation.  Before  a  decade  had  passed,  such  a  holiday  as 
Washington's  Birthday  found  a  quarter-million  excursionists 
bound  for  the  hills,  and  the  total  number  of  skiers  throughout  the 


country  was  estimated  at  two  million.  In  such  states  as  Vermont, 
New  Hampshire,  Michigan,  Wisconsin,  and  Idaho  (where  one 
of  the  most  elaborate  ski  centers  in  the  world  was  established  at 
Sun  Valley  by  the  Union  Pacific  Railroad),  skiing  had  assumed 
formidable  proportions.30 

ALMOST  all  other  sports  underwent  a  tremendous  expansion  in 
the  post-war  years,  only  temporarily  interrupted  by  the  depres- 
sion. Sailing  and  boating  had  a  new  vogue—  a  relative  decline  in 
yachting  but  great  increase  in  motor-boating.  The  outboard  mo- 
tor had  opened  up  for  thousands  a  recreation  formerly  far  be- 
yond their  means.  It  created  an  entirely  new  class  of  water 
enthusiasts,  drawn  in  great  part  from  those  elements  in  society 
which  a  century  earlier  had  lined  city  water-fronts  to  watch  the 
regattas  of  the  exclusive  boating  and  yacht  clubs.  The  outdoor 
movement  drew  campers,  canoeists,  hikers,  and  mountain- 
climbers  into  the  country.  Every  summer  saw  the  lakes  and 
trails  more  crowded  with  young  people  discovering  for  them- 
selves that  living  in  the  open,  sleeping  in  log  huts  or  under 
canvas,  and  cooking  before  a  camp-fire  constituted  one  of  the 
most  satisfying  contrasts  to  the  indoor  routine  of  city  jobs.  There 
were  more  fishing  and  hunting.  An  unusual  revival  caused  several 
states  to  set  aside  special  preserves  for  bow-and-arrow  hunting. 

Horseback-riding,  fox-hunting,  and  polo  proved  that  though 
the  horse  might  be  passing  in  the  commercial  world,  its  r61e  in 
the  world  of  sports  had  become  more  important.  With  the  de- 
mocracy taking  over  so  many  games,  society  fell  back  on  these 
expensive  activities  for  the  assurance  they  provided  of  social 
status.  It  also  took  up  flying—  somewhat  as  it  once  had  motoring 
and  automobile  racing—  and  aviation  played  the  r61e  of  plutoc- 
racy's most  exciting  and  expensive  sport, 

Both  lawn  games  and  indoor  games  multiplied.  Archery  and 
croquet  were  revived.  Field  hockey  flourished  as  a  game  for 
girls.  Badminton  was  widely  taken  up,  and  squash,  racquets  and 


handball.  Ping-pong  flourished  mightily  in  the  new  guise  of  table 
tennis.  It  was  everywhere  the  same  story.  Even  the  traditional 
country  pastime  of  horseshoe-pitching  (although  shuffleboard 
was  reported  to  be  taking  its  place  in  Florida)  felt  the  quickening 
urge  of  the  new  sports  enthusiasm:  a  National  Horseshoe  Pitchers 
Association  was  organized.31 

Over  everything  else,  from  sheer  weight  of  numbers,  stood 
swimming  and  bathing.  They  were  the  great  recreation  of  millions 
who  did  not  take  up  games.  The  packed  beaches  of  the  1920's 
and  1930's  were  a  startling  demonstration  of  the  changes  that 
had  taken  place  since  the  nineteenth  century.  The  modern  bath- 
ing-suit (together  with  shorts  and  slacks)  had  a  social  significance 
which  could  be  appreciated  only  in  comparison  with  the  shocked 
concern  over  mixed  bathing— "the  parties  always  go  into  the 
water  completely  dressed"— in  the  1840's.  It  symbolized  the  new 
status  of  women  even  more  than  the  short  skirts  and  bobbed  hair 
of  the  jazz  age  or  the  athleticism  of  the  devotees  of  tennis  and 
golf.  It  was  the  final  proof  of  their  successful  assertion  of  the  right 
to  enjoy  whatever  recreation  they  chose,  costumed  according  to 
the  demands  of  the  sport  rather  than  the  tabus  of  an  outworn 
prudery,  and  to  enjoy  it  in  free  and  natural  association  with  men. 

Here  was  an  outdoor  recreation  more  fully  open  to  all  classes 
of  people— men  and  women  of  whatever  age,  young  people,  and 
children—than  any  other.  The  two  hundred  million  attendance  at 
municipal  bathing-beaches  and  swimming-pools  (a  total  almost 
as  large  as  that  of  the  estimated  yearly  attendance  at  all  spec- 
tator sports)  did  not  by  any  means  represent  every  one  who 
bathed  and  swam.  Their  numbers  were  swelled  by  throngs  of 
swimmers  of  which  no  count  could  possibly  be  taken.  Neverthe- 
less, even  this  figure  proves  how  universal  a  recreation  it  had 
become.  As  a  result  of  changing  fashions,  a  new  social  interest  in 
recreation,  and  modern  methods  of  transportation,  the  democ- 
racy had  discovered  in  bathing  and  swimming  a  grand  chance 
to  affiliate  with  the  open  air. 


ANY  ATTEMPT  to  survey  sports  in  these  years  is  bound  to  be  in- 
adequate. This  is  implicit  in  the  very  fact  that  opportunities  for 
play  had  so  immeasurably  increased  in  comparison  with  those  of 
half  a  century  or  a  quarter-century  earlier.  In  the  1890*s  the  de- 
scription of  the  beginnings  of  half  a  dozen  organized  sports  could 
afford  a  fair  idea  of  this  phase  of  national  recreation.  In  the  twen- 
tieth century  there  were  innumerable  sports.  We  have  only 
touched  on  their  development,  skimmed  the  surface  of  outdoor 
activities.  One  could  add  soccer,  lacrosse,  volley-ball,  fencing, 
rifle-shooting,  motorcycling,  toboganning,  figure  skating,  ice-boat- 
ing, curling,  gymnastics. . . .  The  sports  activity  of  the  American 
people  was  limitless. 


with  the  collapse  of  the  stock  market  in  the  fall  of  1929, 
faint  voices  might  be  heard  asking  where  the  dominance  of  the 
movies,  the  ballyhoo  of  sports,  the  successive  crazes  for  so  many 
other  amusements,  were  leading  the  American  people.  The  de- 
pression of  the  1930's  brought  this  question  home  with  a  new 
intensity.  The  further  increase  in  leisure  for  the  great  majority  of 
workers,  caused  partly  by  economic  circumstance  and  partly  by 
governmental  action,  suddenly  awoke  the  country  to  the  change 
that  had  come  over  old  ideas  on  the  relationship  between  work 
and  play.  We  were  fully  launched  on  what  James  A.  Garfield 
half  a  century  earlier  had  said  was  the  second  great  struggle  of 
civilization— 'What  shall  we  do  with  our  leisure  when  we  get  it?" 
For  three  centuries  the  American  tradition  had  placed  an 
emphasis  on  work  which  made  it  the  chief  purpose  of  existence. 
"Business  to  the  American,"  an  Englishman  could  write  even  in 
the  1920's,  "is  life's  great  adventure;  it  is  sport,  work,  pleasure, 
beauty  and  patriotism  rolled  into  one.*7  x  Puritanism  had  imposed 
a  religious  sanction  on  this  concept.  Idleness  could  have  no  place 
in  a  world  where  labor  was  the  greatest  good.  But  with  the  de- 
pression the  revolutionary  transformation  wrought  by  the  ma- 
chine could  no  longer  be  ignored.  It  had  not  only  made  leisure 
possible  for  the  mass  of  people,  but  had  imposed  it  upon  them 
whether  they  wanted  it  or  not.  Boon  or  Pandora's  box  of  new 
evils,  there  could  be  no  escaping  it.  And  since  it  was  not  in  our 
nature  to  accept  it  easily,  gratefully  ("Pleasure  does  make  us 
Yankees  kind  o'  winch"),  we  examined  it  with  some  foreboding 



Leisure  became,  according  to  the  dictates  of  our  puritan  in- 
heritance, not  so  much  an  opportunity  as  a  problem. 

Despite  labor  agitation  for  shorter  hours,  leisure  was  primarily 
a  by-product  of  industrialism  rather  than  anything  that  had  been 
consciously  sought  out.  Little  thought  had  been  given  to  its  ulti- 
mate value  for  the  people  as  a  whole  through  the  hurrying  years 
of  economic  progress.  The  reduction  in  hours  of  work  had  taken 
place  almost  automatically  as  the  application  of  mechanical 
power  enabled  society  to  satisfy  its  normal  needs  in  progressively 
less  working  time.  This  was  generally  true  throughout  the  west- 
ern world,  but  the  United  States  particularly  was  confronted  by 
a  condition  and  not  a  theory. 

The  eight-hour  day  had  come  into  general  effect  although  there 
were,  of  course,  many  exceptions  by  the  1920's.  Statistics  for 
twenty-five  forms  of  manufacture  showed  tihe  average  working- 
week  in  this  country  for  both  men  and  women  to  be  forty-eight 
hours.2  Shop  and  office  employees  fared  even  better  with  the 
more  general  adoption  of  both  the  Saturday  half -holiday  and  the 
week's  or  two  weeks'  summer  vacation.  The  further  reduction  in 
this  time  occasioned  by  the  depression,  with  the  demand  for 
spreading  out  work  and  increasing  employment,  found  a  forty- 
hour  week  suddenly  becoming  the  almost  general  rule.  A  full 
working-day  was  lopped  off  through  the  terms  of  the  National 
Industrial  Recovery  Act,  and  even  after  the  N.R.A.  had  collapsed, 
further  legislation  maintained  this  shorter  working-week  as  a 
national  objective.  Never  before  had  there  been  such  an  effective 
decrease  in  labor's  average  working  time,  considering  the  coun- 
try as  a  whole,  in  so  brief  a  period. 

The  average  industrial  worker  at  the  close  of  the  1930's  en- 
joyed the  equivalent  of  almost  a  full  day  more  of  weekly  leisure 
than  he  had  had  prior  to  the  depression.  In  comparison  with 
conditions  in  the  1890's,  he  had  more  than  twice  as  much  time 
free  for  recreational  activities.  Over  the  course  of  a  century,  pre- 
vailing hours  of  labor  had  been  halved  and  available  leisure  was 
estimated  to  have  increased  from  about  ten  hours  weekly  to  some 


seventy.  It  was  a  startling  development  whose  social  significance 
could  hardly  be  overestimated.3 

Since  the  industrial  revolution  no  people  had  ever  had  so  much 
time  for  other  things  besides  earning  a  livelihood.  Civilizations  of 
the  past  had  had  many  non-working  days,  more  than  is  generally 
realized.  In  Egypt  holidays  are  said  to  have  amounted  to  one- 
fifth  the  number  of  days  in  the  year;  there  were  from  fifty  to 
sixty  days  of  festival  in  Greece;  and  in  Rome  almost  a  third  of 
the  days  in  the  year  were  considered  "unlucky"  for  work.4  But 
t^e  factory  system  had  spelled  the  end  of  such  frequent  holidays 
and  for  long  imposed  just  as  many  hours  of  daily  labor  as  the 
ancient  world  had  known.  Now  at  last,  however,  the  masses  en- 
joyed a  measure  of  weekly  leisure  which  more  than  made  up 
for  the  non-working  days  and  festivals  of  an  earlier  age. 

The  implications  of  these  developments  had  been  seriously 
discussed  long  before  the  reduction  from  a  forty-eight-hour  week 
to  a  forty-hour  week.  The  experience  of  the  depression  years, 
however,  dramatized  the  situation  as  never  before.  The  "chal- 
lenge of  the  new  leisure"  became  a  vital  issue.  Under  such  cir- 
cumstances recreation  could  no  longer  be  dismissed  as  a  waste  of 
time  or  harmless  diversion.  It  could  no  longer  be  considered  only 
a  means  to  restore  the  capacity  to  work— part  of  that  endless  circle 
wherein  one  worked  to  gain  the  opportunity  to  play  and  played 
to  be  able  to  work  more  effectively.  It  became  for  perhaps  the 
first  time  in  American  history  something  which  was  represented 
as  a  possible  good  in  itself.  The  psychologist  wrote  of  the  value 
of  play  as  an  instinctive  form  of  self-expression  and  emotional 
escape-valve;  the  sociologist  stressed  its  importance  in  counter- 
acting ill  health,  mental  instability,  and  crime  in  the  urban  com- 

'The  value  of  leisure-time  activities,  play  and  recreation," 
wrote  George  A.  Lundberg,  "is  usually  conceded  to  lie  in  the 
nervous  release  which  they  afford  from  the  customary  and  co- 
ercive activities  which  the  social  order  imposes  upon  us.  To  the 
extent,  therefore,  that  the  pursuits  of  our  leisure-time  tend  to 


become  organized  under  conventional  patterns  determined  by 
competitive  consumption  they  lose  their  unique  and  primary 
value  as  recreation  and  so  become  merely  another  department  of 
activity  devoted  to  the  achievement  of  prestige  or  status,"  6 

The  scientific  pack  was  in  full  cry;  There  was  a  sudden 
burgeoning  of  committees  to  study  leisure-time  activities  and  of 
organizations  to  promote  healthful  community  play.  The  church 
intensified  its  efforts  to  meet  the  challenge  of  commercial  amuse- 
ments, and  industry  undertook  to  promote  the  recreation  of  its 
employees  along  the  lines  it  considered  most  socially  useful.  As 
a  phase  of  the  general  program  for  social  security,  the  New  Deal 
reenforced  the  efforts  already  being  made  by  municipalities  to 
enable  city  workers  to  take  part  in  a  broad  field  of  diversions 
ranging  from  handball  to  folk-dancing.  It  paid  out  through  the 
W.P.A.,  as  already  noted,  hundreds  of  millions  of  dollars  for 
parks,  playgrounds,  and  recreation  centers. 

Here  was  a  complete  departure  from  that  earlier  tradition 
which  had  found  church  and  state  allied  in  condemning  leisure 
and  amusements.  No  laws  were  being  passed  in  the  1930's  in 
detestation  of  idleness.  The  energy  and  resources  of  the  state 
were  employed  to  implement  it.  Recognition  of  a  responsibility 
to  promote  work  had  been  translated  into  a  responsibility  to 
make  leisure  worth  while. 

ECONOMIC  CONSIDERATIONS  affected  the  changed  status  of  leisure 
in  otter  ways.  It  was  not  only  that  the  reduction  in  hours  of  labor 
necessary  to  produce  the  goods  the  people  needed  had  auto- 
matically created  more  free  time,  or  that  the  efficient  working  of 
the  factory  system  demanded  healthful  recreation  to  offset  the 
strain  of  more  intensified  work.  Our  whole  economy  was  geared 
to  a  necessary  consumption  of  leisure-time  goods.  The  working 
of  the  industrial  plant  had  become  dependent  upon  people  hav- 
ing the  time,  and  the  money,  to  spend  on  the  commercialized 
amusements  which  were  the  machine  age's  answer  to  recreational 


needs.  A  large  part  of  our  economic  activity  was  the  provision  of 
entertainment  for  the  laboring  masses.  Millions  of  people  were 
employed  in  providing  amusements  for  their  fellow-workers. 

It  has  been  conservatively  estimated  (many  studies  giving 
much  higher  figures)  that  the  American  people  spent  in  1935 
more  than  eight  per  cent  of  their  entire  income  on  recreation. 
The  total  was  something  over  $4,000,000,000.  This  was  a  decline 
of  approximately  one-third  from  the  total  for  1929,  but  it  was 
proportionately  greater  than  ever  before  in  our  history.  The  ratio, 
indeed,  was  just  twice  that  of  a  quarter  of  a  century  earlier. 
Vacation  travel,  dominated  by  the  immense  sums  spent  on  auto- 
mobile touring,  accounted  for  more  than  half  this  figure.  The 
remainder  was  divided  almost  equally  between  commercial 
amusements  and  so-called  recreational  products.  Motion  pictures 
were  far  and  away  the  principal  item  among  commercial  amuse- 
ments, but  they  also  included  legitimate  theatres,  amusement 
parks,  billiard  parlors  and  bowling-alleys,  public  dance-halls,  and 
all  spectator  sports.  Recreational  products  comprised  radios,  the 
lighter  books  and  periodicals,  musical  instruments,  motor  boats, 
games,  and  all  sporting  goods  and  equipment.7 

These  expenditures  afford  graphic  evidence  of  how  accustomed 
the  American  democracy  had  become  to  digging  deep  down  into 
its  pocket  for  its  amusements.  The  relative  rise  in  their  ratio  to 
national  income  through  the  depression  years  is  startling  proof  of 
the  commercial  aspect  of  popular  recreation.  The  country  as  a 
whole  appeared  every  year  more  willing  to  buy  entertainment, 
even  though  it  must  have  meant  in  countless  instances  the  sacri- 
fice of  other  things  that  might  normally  seem  more  important. 
The  spirit  that  induced  so  many  workingmen  to  give  up  almost 
anything  else  before  they  let  the  automobile  go  was  reflected  on 
a  broader  scale  in  the  whole  field  of  popular  diversion. 

The  large  sums  recorded  by  these  figures  are  also  impressive 
in  their  bearing  on  the  r61e  of  commercial  amusements  in  na- 
tional production.  That  part  of  the  automobile  industry  which 
may  be  statistically  allocated  to  the  pleasure  use  of  cars,  the  mo- 


tion-picture  industry,  and  the  radio  industry  stand  out  from  the 
point  of  view  of  both  value  of  products  and  employment  as  three 
of  America's  leading  industrial  activities.  When  all  other  branches 
of  popular  entertainment  and  the  economic  activities  directly 
dependent  upon  them  are  included,  the  amusement  industry  as 
a  whole  is  seen  to  take  its  place  as  an  essential  cog  in  the  working 
of  the  industrial  plant  as  developed  during  the  twentieth  cen- 

If  the  impossible  had  happened  in  the  1930's,  if  the  country 
had  somehow  gone  back  and  accepted  Puritan  concepts  of  the 
evil  inherent  in  all  amusements,  the  resulting  dislocation  in  the 
industries  providing  popular  entertainment  would  have  thrown 
the  entire  economic  system  out  of  gear.  Millions  of  men  and 
women  would  have  suddenly  found  themselves  without  jobs  or 
means  of  support.  No  movies,  no  automobile  touring,  no  radio,  no 
professional  sports—  the  country  could  hardly  have  survived! 
Even  the  revival  of  the  Puritan  Sabbath,  with  effective  blue  laws 
forbidding  all  Sunday  amusements,  would  have  had  economic 
repercussions  throwing  an  army  of  workers  out  of  employment. 

ANOTHER  ASPECT  of  recreation  under  the  conditions  imposed  by 
the  new  leisure  was  its  social  effects.  As  any  observer  of  the 
American  scene  could  easily  have  foretold,  surveys  of  recreation 
in  the  1930's  invariably  showed  that  the  radio,  movies,  and  mo- 
toring were  the  most  popular  and  most  frequently  enjoyed  of  all 
diversions.  The  more  simple,  unsophisticated  leisure-time 
activities  of  the  home  still  continued.  In  point  of  fact,  the  forced 
economies  of  the  depression  period  introduced  a  new  informality 
into  social  life  for  many  people  and  threw  others  to  a  greater  ex- 
tent on  their  own  resources  for  entertainment  than  they  had  been 
in  many  years.  Some  of  the  surveys  revealed  that  people  actually 
spent  more  time  visiting  with  their  friends  than  going  to  the 
movies.  The  art  of  conversation  may  have  died,  but  people  still 
talked.  Nevertheless,  almost  every  questionnaire  provided  further 


confirmation  that  the  great  amount  of  time  spent  by  the  entire 
family  on  machine-made  amusements  was  one  of  the  most  signifi- 
cant aspects  of  contemporary  life.8 

"How  does  the  American  adult  spend  his  leisure  time?"  asked 
one  magazine  writer  in  1937,  who  then  went  on  to  answer  his  own 
question  without  benefit  of  scientific  surveys.  "The  chances  are 
eight  to  ten  that  he  will  drive  his  car  along  Route  168,  watch  a 
'moom*  picture,, listen  to  the  Itty  Bitty  Kiddie  Hour,  or  else  enjoy 
a  few  inches  in  the  bleachers  while  some  one  on  the  field  plays 
for  him." 8 

These  new  amusements  pulled  in  many  different  directions. 
In  almost  every  instance  in  which  the  influence  of  commercial- 
ized entertainment  could  be  held  unwholesome,  almost  as  good 
a  case  could  be  made  out  to  quite  the  opposite  effect.  The  movies 
tended  to  disrupt  family  life,  but  the  radio  kept  people  at  home. 
Motoring  took  away  from  lawn  games  and  informal  back-yard 
sports;  it  also  opened  up  larger  opportunities  for  more  ambitious 
outdoor  activities.  Together  these  machine  amusements  led  to 
the  decline  of  many  traditional  diversions  of  the  small  town  and 
countryside.  Lodge  night,  the  church  social,  the  Grange  picnic, 
and  even  the  country  fair  lost  something  of  their  old  glory,  but 
so  did  the  pool-room,  the  beer-parlor,  the  burlesque  show,  and 
the  shady  entertainment  palace  of  metropolis.  There  was  less 
family-group  recreation,  but  more  for  the  individual  regardless 
of  age  or  sex.  A  proper  balance  could  not  easily  be  struck  in 
evaluating  the  change  in  recreational  patterns.  The  radio's  in- 
cessant blare  brought  Beethoven  as  well  as  the  Jazztown  Rubes 
to  its  nation-wide  audience;  the  movies  offered  their  millions 
Withering  Heights  as  well  as  Sinners  in  Silk.  If  conditions  of 
urban  life  still  placed  a  premium  on  passive  indoor  amusements, 
there  was  the  underlying  trend  (which  the  radio  and  the  movies 
often  themselves  promoted)  toward  a  wider  participation  in 
sports  than  the  country  had  ever  known  before. 

With  modern  inventions  every  one  heard  the  same  tunes  at 
the  same  time  over  the  radio,  saw  the  same  movies  from  coast 


to  coast.  Because  of  the  ballyhoo  of  the  entertainment  industry, 
the  public  took  up  the  same  fads  and  fancies.  It  played  mah-jong 
one  year  and  miniature  golf  the  next.  The  American  people,  it 
was  often  charged,  were  being  so  closely  regimented  in  their 
amusements  that  individuality  was  doomed.  Even  for  this  some- 
thing might  be  said  on  the  ground  that  recreation  had  become 
a  great  unifying  force  among  a  very  heterogeneous  people,  an 
instrument  to  promote  national  solidarity  at  a  time  when  the 
bonds  of  church  and  state  had  lost  their  old  strength.  But  how 
real  was  this  alleged  regimentation  in  comparison  with  other  days 
or  other  lands?  Its  evils  were  most  emphasized  by  representa- 
tives of  the  class  whose  leisure  and  income  had  always  enabled 
them  to  enjoy  a  relatively  wide  variety  of  pleasures.  Uncon- 
sciously, perhaps,  they  resented  the  fact  that  they  could  no  longer 
maintain  an  exclusive  hold  on  their  amusements.  It  was  disturb- 
ing that  the  new  sport  could  no  longer  be  restricted  to  the  more 
genteel  elements  of  society,  that  every  fad  should  be  taken  up  so 
quickly  by  the  people  as  a  whole. 

For  the  common  man  the  radio,  the  movies,  and  the  auto- 
mobile represented  recreational  opportunities  he  had  never  had 
before.  The  successive  crazes  for  sports  and  games  introduced 
a  diversity  into  his  life  that  it  had  completely  lacked.  And  for 
him  the  pattern  of  these  regimented  amusements  was  so  complex 
in  comparison  with  the  simple  and  actually  far  more  uniform 
diversions  of  an  earlier  day  that  the  laments  of  the  sophisticated 
were  incomprehensible.  The  popularity  of  an  infinite  number  of 
hobbies  and  special  interests  also  seemed  to  show  that  individ- 
uality had  by  no  means  been  wholly  engulfed  in  mass  entertain- 
ment. Millions  might  listen  simultaneously  to  Bing  Crosby  or  the 
Singing  Lady,  crowd  the  theatres  to  see  Andy  Hardy  Gets  Spring 
Fever,  or  spend  Sunday  afternoon  motoring  in  a  staggering  pro- 
cession of  identical  sedans,  but  vast  numbers  also  grew  prize 
dahlias,  played  on  softball  teams,  collected  stamps,  went  to 
legitimate  theatres  or  concert-halls,  played  checkers  and  chess, 
raced  outboard  motor-boats,  worked  at  amateur  carpentry,  went 


on  camping  trips  in  the  woods,  took  up  bridge,  flute-playing,  or 

No  other  country,  and  no  other  age,  had  ever  had  a  wider 
choice  of  amusements  open  to  the  mass  of  the  people.  It  was  over- 
whelming. Science  and  the  machine  had  reshaped  the  traditional 
patterns  of  recreation  into  hundreds  of  new  forms.  Working  men 
and  working  women—  factory  operatives,  plumbers,  waitresses, 
bank  clerks,  telephone  operators,  farm-hands,  stenographers, 
storekeepers,  nurse-maids,  subway  guards,  mill-hands,  garment- 
workers,  office-boys,  truck-drivers—found  countless  pleasures 
once  limited  to  the  privileged  few  were  now  theirs  for  the  seek- 
ing. The  democracy  had  come  into  its  heritage.  It  had  achieved 
both  leisure  and  the  facilities  for  its  enjoyment. 

DESPITE  the  demands  made  for  a  greater  measure  of  control  over 
popular  amusements,  the  American  people  continued  in  the 
1930's  to  maintain  the  laissez-faire  attitude  which  was  felt  to  be 
the  essence  of  democracy.  Except  in  so  far  as  Government  under- 
took to  provide  the  increased  opportunities  for  play  that  it  was 
now  felt  the  community  owed  its  citizens,  there  was  no  legis- 
lative interference  with  recreation.  It  was  not  officially  ordered 
to  promote  industrial  efficiency,  to  bind  the  people  to  any 
political  system,  or  to  prepare  the  country  for  war.  The  example 
of  the  totalitarian  states  was  not  followed.  Opportunity,  not  com- 
pulsion, symbolized  the  American  way.  The  wishes  of  the  in- 
dividual were  not  sacrificed  to  the  supposed  interests  of  the  State, 
and  the  theory  was  generally  maintained  that  public  opinion 
alone  should  be  the  arbiter  of  recreation's  r61e  in  the  national 
life.  If  its  standards  were  to  be  raised,  it  could  be  done  only 
through  popular  education. 

Such  an  attitude  seemed  implicit  in  the  ideals  on  which  Ameri- 
can society  was  based.  In  an  age  in  which  they  were  being 
threatened  from  so  many  quarters,  here  was  another  challenge 
to  everything  for  which  democracy  stood. 



so  voluminous  that  the  following  bibliographical  notes  represent 
only  a  tentative  and  very  limited  guide  to  the  essential  sources.  There 
is  no  encompassing  a  field  which  includes  laws  on  colonial  and  state 
statute-books,  the  journals  of  travelers  throughout  our  history,  diaries 
and  autobiographies,  newspapers  and  magazines  (their  advertisements 
as  well  as  their  news  columns),  and  all  extant  sports  guides,  books  of 
games,  theatre  playbills  and  programs,  circus  posters,  and  general 
amusement  broadsides.  It  is  possible  here  only  to  indicate  the  sources 
that  the  present  author  has  found  especially  useful. 

For  books  dealing  with  special  phases  of  recreation  there  are  a 
few  helpful  bibliographies.  Robert  W.  Henderson  has  compiled  a 
chronological  check-list  of  books  on  sports  published  prior  to  1860, 
Early  American  Sports  (New  York,  1937);  and  C.  M.  Van  Sockun?  a 
more  general  bibliography  for  1890-1912,  Sport  (New  York,  1914). 
Blanch  M.  Baker,  Dramatic  Bibliography  (New  York,  1933),  is  useful 
for  the  theatre,  and  Leonidas  Westervelt,  The  Circus  in  Literature 
(New  York,  1931),  for  the  circus.  The  various  volumes  in  A  History  of 
American  Life  edited  by  A.  M.  Schlesinger  and  D.  R.  Fox  ( 12  vols., 
in  progress,  New  York,  1927—)  have  bibliographical  sections  on  amuse- 
ments; and  the  Russell  Sage  Foundation  has  issued  two  selective  bibli- 
ographies on  modern  recreation— Bulletin  151,  compiled  by  Grace  P. 
Thornton,  and  Bulletin  156,  compiled  by  M.  P.  Williams.  Finally,  note 
should  be  made  of  the  monthly  lists  of  books  on  this  topic  in  the 
magazine  Recreation,  published  by  the  National  Recreation  Associa- 

An  extensive  specialized  literature  on  both  the  theatre  and  sports 
is  available,  but  the  only  comprehensive  attempts  to  portray  the  entire 
theatrical  scene  are  O.  S.  Goad  and  Edwin  Mims,  Jr.,  The  American 
Stage  in  The  Pageant  of  America,  Vol.  XIV  (New  Haven,  1929), 
Arthur  A.  Hornblow,  History  of  the  American  Theatre  (2  vols.,  Phila- 
delphia, 1919),  and  John  Anderson,  The  American  Theatre  (New 
York,  1938);  while  the  only  inclusive  history  of  sports  is  John  A. 
Krout,  Annals  of  American  Sport  in  The  Pageant  of  America,  Vol.  XV 



(New  Haven,  1929),  A  more  recent  study  in  this  field  designed  for 
student  use  should  also  be  mentioned,  R.  B.  Weaver,  Amusements  and 
Sports  in  American  Life  (Chicago,  1939),  but  here  again  the  field  is 
more  limited  than  that  which  the  present  book  attempts  to  cover.  All 
these  books  have  lists  of  sources,  and  though  the  following  notes  are 
somewhat  more  comprehensive,  it  should  again  be  emphasized  that 
they  constitute  an  arbitrary  and  highly  selective  bibliography  which 
makes  no  pretense  of  including  all  available  material. 


The  most  important  primary  source  on  recreation  is  newspapers  and 
periodicals.  Scattered  notices  in  the  colonial  papers  afford  such  evi- 
dence as  is  available  on  the  beginnings  of  the  theatre,  and,  in  the 
first  half  of  the  nineteenth  century  advertisements  are  still  the  most 
valuable  clue  for  all  commercial  entertainment.  The  rise  of  organized 
sports  may  also  best  be  traced  through  newspaper  columns  and  maga- 
zine articles.  After  1850  this  material  becomes  voluminous,  and  by 
the  close  of  the  century  the  special  theatre  and  sports  sections  have 
come  into  being.  Through  its  r61e  as  a  center  for  amusements,  the 
papers  of  New  York  are  perhaps  most  valuable,  with  the  Tribune  and 
the  Herald  providing  the  most  readily  available  sources.  Those  of 
other  cities  also  reflect  the  changing  scene,  however,  while  small- 
town papers  throughout  the  country  throw  a  revealing  light  through 
their  local  notices  on  the  character  of  non-commercial  entertainment. 

The  first  important  magazine  to  be  devoted  to  amusements  (al- 
though it  had  been  preceded  by  The  American  Turf  Register,  founded 
in  1829)  was  The  Spirit  of  the  Times,  a  Chronicle  of  the  Turf,  Field 
Sports,  Literature  and  the  Stage.  It  was  established  in  1835  and  was 
variously  known  as  Porter's  Spirit  of  the  Times  and  Wilkes'  Spirit  of 
the  Times.  The  National  Police  Gazette  (1845)  also  dealt  with 
amusements,  and  The  New  York  Clipper  (1853)  was  the  first  exclu- 
sively sporting  journal.  Through  these  magazines  more  than  in  any 
other  way  the  early  beginnings  of  commercial  amusements  and  or- 
ganized sports  may  be  traced.  Outing,  first  called  The  Wheelman, 
was  established  in  1882  and  gave  more  attention  to  amateur  sports, 
Many  other  magazines  devoted  to  athletics  now  sprang  up  (see  Frank 
Luther  Mott,  A  History  of  American  Magazines,  5  vols.,  in  progress, 
New  York  and  Cambridge,  1930- ),  and  as  early  as  ,1887  this  group 
of  periodicals  included  The  Ball  Players'  Chronicle,  Sports  and  Games, 
Sporting  Life,  The  American  Angler,  The  American  Canoeist,  The 


American  Cricketeer,  Bicycle  World,  The  Mirror  of  Sports,  Field  and 
Streamy  Sporting  Life.  , . .  By  the  twentieth  century  their  number  is 

The  most  useful  journal  devoted  to  the  theatre,  after  mid-nineteenth 
century,  was  The  New  Jork  Dramatic  Mirror,  founded  in  1879.  It 
carried  full  reports  of  theatrical  activities  throughout  the  country, 
with  extensive  lists  of  shows  on  the  road.  Many  publications  devoted 
to  the  stage  have  subsequently  been  established,  ranging  from  The- 
atre Arts  Monthly  to  Variety. 

Articles  on  various  phases  of  recreation  are  also  found  after  1850 
in  almost  every  magazine  published.  The  most  useful  are  the  illus- 
trated weeklies,  notably  Harpers  Weekly,  Frank  Leslies  Illustrated 
Newspaper,  and  Gleasons  'Pictorial  and  Drawing-Room  Companion. 
Among  the  monthlies  occasional  articles  were  published  in  The  At- 
lantic Monthly,  Harper's,  Scribners,  Godey's  Lady's  Book,  Century, 
and  The  North  American  Review.  In  later  years  such  material  is  often 
most  conveniently  found  in  The  Literary  Digest,  but  the  files  of  such 
magazines  as  The  Saturday  Evening  Post,  Collier's,  The  American 
Magazine,  McClure's,  The  Ladies"  Home  Journal,  The  American 
Mercury,  and  Country  Life  yield  much  information  that  cannot  be 
found  elsewhere. 

The  appended  chapter  notes  will  show  more  adequately  where  the 
material  for  the  present  book  has  been  gathered.  In  addition  to  the 
magazines  noted,  its  sources  have  ranged  from  an  article  on  trolley 
parks  in  The  Street  Railway  Review  to  a  study  of  church  entertain- 
ment in  The  Forum,  from  a  description  of  parlor  games  in  Good 
Housekeeping  to  an  analysis  of  "the  recreational  dollar"  in  Business 


Among  the  scattered  primary  sources  for  colonial  recreation  a  few 
contemporary  diaries  and  travel  journals  stand  out  with  special  promi- 
nence. Samuel  Sewall,  Diary,  Massachusetts  Historical  Society  Collec- 
tions, Ser.  5,  Vols.  V-VII,  1878-82  (also  available  in  abridged  form, 
edited  by  Mark  Van  Doren,  New  York,  1927),  is  invaluable  for  New 
England  in  the  period  from  1674  through  1729,  and  for  the  latter  half 
of  the  eighteenth  century  the  diaries  of  John  Adams,  in  Works,  II 
(Boston,  1850) ;  John  Quincy  Adams,  in  Life  in  a  New  England  Town 
(Boston,  1903);  Nathaniel  Ames,  in  Jacobin  and  Junto  (Charles 
Warren,  editor,  Cambridge,  1931),  and  Joseph  Bennett,  in  Proceed- 
ings of  the  Massachusetts  Historical  Society,  1861.  An  interesting 


New  York  diary  is  John  Sharp,  A  Journal  of  My  Life-Exteriour,  in 
Pennsylvania  Magazine  of  History  and  Biography,  XL  (1916),  while 
an  incomparable  source  for  recreation  on  a  southern  plantation  is 
Philip  Vickers  Fithian,  Journal  and  Letters  (Princeton,  1900).  There 
is  also  some  account  of  southern  amusements  in  such  sources  as  Wil- 
liam ByrcTs  The  History  of  the  Dividing  Line  (Richmond,  1866)  and 
The  Diaries  of  George  Washington  (4  vols.,  Boston,  1925). 

Among  many  travel  accounts  of  the  eighteenth  century,  the  most 
useful  for  recreation  are  John  Bernard,  Retrospections  of  America 
1797-1811  (New  York,  1887);  Andrew  Burnaby,  Travels  Through 
the  Middle  Settlements  in  North-America  (London,  1775);  Marquis 
de  ChasteUux,  Travels  in  North  America  (New  York,  1827);  Captain 
Francis  Goelet,  Journal,  in  New  England  Historical  and  Genealogical 
Register,  XXIV  (1870);  Dr.  Alexander  Hamilton,  Itinerarium  (edited 
by  A.  B.  Hart,  St  Louis,  1907);  Hugh  Jones,  The  Present  State  of 
Virginia  (London,  1724;  reprinted  New  York,  1865);  Sarah  Kemble 
Knight,  Private  Journal  (Albany,  1865);  and  Henry  Wansey,  An 
Excursion  to  the  United  States  (Salisbury,  1798). 

There  is  a  wealth  of  secondary  sources.  Interest  in  how  the  early 
settlers  lived  has  always  been  so  great  that  recreation  in  the  colonial 
era  has  received  more  adequate  treatment  than  in  any  other  period 
until  the  twentieth  century.  Among  general  social  histories  some 
material  has  been  brought  together,  although  very  briefly,  in  such 
books  as  Charles  M.  Andrews,  Colonial  Folkways  in  Chronicles  of 
America,  VI  (New  Haven,  1918);  Thomas  J.  Wertenbaker,  The  First 
Americans  in  A  History  of  American  Life,  II  (New  York,  1929) ;  and 
James  Truslow  Adams,  Provincial  Society  in  A  History  of  American 
Life,  III  (New  York,  1936).  More  useful  are  a  number  of  books  deal- 
ing with  specialized  topics.  A  highly  selective  list  would  include 
Philip  Alexander  Bruce,  Social  Life  in  Virginia  in  the  Seventeenth 
Century  (Richmond,  1907);  Mary  N.  Stannard,  Colonial  Virginia 
(Philadelphia,  1917);  Robert  M.  Lawrence,  New  England  Colonial 
Life  (Cambridge,  1927);  Mary  Caroline  Crawford,  Social  Life  in  Old 
New  England  (Boston,  1914);  George  Francis  Dow,  Every  Day  Life 
in  the  Massachusetts  Bay  Colony  (Boston,  1935);  Esther  Singleton, 
Social  New  York  Under  the  Georges  (New  York,  1902);  Sydney 
George  Fisher,  Men,  Women  and  Manners  in  Colonial  Times  (2  vols., 
Philadelphia,  1898);  and,  with  even  more  marked  attention  to  recrea- 
tion as  revealed  in  contemporary  sources,  the  various  books  of  Alice 
Morse  Earle:  Colonial  Days  in  Old  New  York  (New  York,  1896), 
Colonial  Dames  and  Goodwives  (Boston,  1895),  Home  Life  in  Co- 


lonial  Days  (New  York,  1898),  and  Child  Life  in  Colonial  Days 
(New  York,  1899). 

For  amusements  in  the  cities,  apart  from  books  dealing  specifically 
with  the  theatre  which  are  listed  under  that  topic,  there  is  also  inter- 
esting material,  among  other  local  histories,  in  Martha  J.  Lamb,  His- 
tory of  the  City  of  New  York  (2  vok,  New  York,  1877) ;  James  Grant 
Wilson,  The  Memorial  History  of  New  York  (3  vok.,  New  York, 
1893);  J.  F.  Watson,  Annals  of  New  York  (Philadelphia,  1846);  J. 
Thomas  Scharf  and  Thompson  Westcott,  History  of  Philadelphia  (3 
vok,  Philadelphia,  1884);  J.  F.  Watson,  Annals  of  Philadelphia 
(Philadelphia,  1857);  Lyon  G.  Tyler,  Williamsburg  (Richmond, 
1907);  E.  S.  Riley,  The  Ancient  City  (Annapolis,  1887);  Justin  Win- 
sor,  Memorial  History  of  Boston  (3  vok,  Boston,  1880-81);  and  Carl 
Bridenbaugh,  Cities  in  the  Wilderness  (New  York,  1939), 

Note  may  also  be  made,  among  still  more  special  studies,  of  Ed- 
ward Field,  The  Colonial  Tavern  (Providence,  1897);  Walter  Tittle, 
Colonial  Holidays  (New  York,  1910);  and  Richardson  Wright, 
Hawkers  and  Walkers  in  Early  America  (Philadelphia,  1927). 


An  important  source  of  the  nineteenth  century  that  deserves  special 
mention  is  the  host  of  travel  books  of  that  period.  Apart  from  news- 
paper and  magazine  material,  such  revealing  diaries  as  that  of  Philip 
Hone  (edited  by  Allan  Nevins,  2  vok,  New  York,  1927),  or  such 
occasional  descriptive  records  as  Emerson  Davis,  The  Half  Century 
(Boston,  1851);  Timothy  Dwight,  Travels  in  New  England  (4  vok, 
London,  1823);  Anne  RoyaH,  Sketches  of  History,  Life  and  Manners 
of  the  United  States  (New  Haven,  1826);  and  George  Makepeace 
Towle,  American  Society  (2  vok,  London,  1870),  the  impressionistic 
travel  journals  published  by  English  visitors  to  the  United  States 
between  1820  and  1860  provide  the  clearest  picture  of  the  recrea- 
tional scene  in  those  years.  They  are  most  conveniently  listed  in 
Allan  Nevins  (editor),  American  Social  History  as  Recorded  by  British 
Travellers  (New  York,  1923),  but  a  few  of  the  most  helpful  for  this 
special  topic  may  be  singled  out. 

Such  a  specialized  list  would  include  W.  E.  Baxter,  America  and 
the  Americans  (London,  1855);  Alfred  Bunn,  Old  England  and  New 
England  (2  vok,  London,  1853);  George  Combe,  Notes  on  the 
United  States  (3  vok,  Edinburgh,  1841);  Charles  Dickens,  American 
Notes  (London,  1842);  Emily  Faithfull,  Three  Visits  to  America 


(Edinburgh,  1884);  James  Flint,  Letters  from  America  (Edinburgh, 
1822);  Thomas  Colley  Grattan,  Civilized  America  (2  vols.,  London, 
1859) ;  Francis  J.  Grund,  The  Americans  (Boston,  1837) ;  Francis  Hall, 
Travels  in  Canada  and  the  United  States  (London,  1818);  Basil 
Hall,  Travels  in  North  America  (3  vols.,  London,  1829);  Mrs.  Basil 
Hall,  The  Aristocratic  Journey  (New  York,  1931);  Thomas  Hamilton, 
Men  and  Manners  (2  vols.,  Philadelphia,  1833);  Frances  Anne  Kem- 
ble,  Journal  (2  vols.,  Philadelphia,  1835);  Charles  Lyell,  Travels  in 
North  America  (2  vols.,  New  York,  1852);  Alexander  Mackay,  The 
Western  World  (3  vols.,  London,  1850);  Harriet  Martineau,  Society 
in  America  (3  vols.,  London,  1838);  Captain  Frederick  Marryat,  A 
Diary  in  America  (2  vols.,  Philadelphia,  1839);  T.  L.  Nichols,  Forty 
Years  of  American  Life  (London,  1874);  James  Stuart,  Three  Years 
in  North  America  (2  vols.,  London,  1833);  Frances  M.  Trollope, 
Domestic  Manners  of  the  Americans  (2  vols.,  London,  1832);  and 
Frances  Wright  D'Arusmont,  Views  of  Society  and  Manners  in  Amer- 
ica (New  York,  1821). 

A  number  of  French  travel  accounts  also  (for  bibliography  see 
Frank  Monaghan,  French  Travellers  in  the  United  States,  17 65-1982, 
New  York,  1933)  are  useful  for  the  early  nineteenth  century:  Michael 
Chevalier,  Society,  Manners  and  Politics  in  the  United  States  (Boston, 
1839);  AchiUe  Murat,  A  Moral  and  Political  Sketch  of  the  United 
States  (London,  1833);  Alexis  de  Tocqueville,  Democracy  in  America 
(1834-41)  (2  vols.,  Boston,  1876);  and,  somewhat  later,  Paul  Blouet 
(Max  O'Rell),  Jonathan  and  His  Continent  (New  York,  1884);  Paul 
de  Rousiers,  American  Life  (New  York,  1892);  and  S.  C.  de  Soisson, 
A  Parisian  in  America  (Boston,  1896). 


Apart  from  scattered  newspaper  notices,  contemporary  records  of 
the  theatre  are  not  generally  available  until  after  1800.  For  subse- 
quent years  there  are  many  extensive  collections  of  play  bills,  theatre 
programs,  and  other  memorabilia,  two  of  the  largest  being  the  Har- 
vard University  Collection  and  the  Robinson  Locke  Collection  of 
Dramatic  Scrapbooks  in  the  New  York  Public  Library.  Among  books 
the  most  important  primary  sources  for  the  early  nineteenth  century 
are  William  Dunlap,  History  of  the  American  Theatre  (London, 
1833);  William  B.  Wood,  Personal  Recollections  of  the  Stage  (Phila- 
delphia, 1855);  Joseph  Norton  Ireland,  Records  of  the  New  York 
Stage,  1750-1860  (2  vols.,  New  York,  1866-67);  William  W.  Clapp, 


A  Record  of  the  Boston  Stage  (Boston,  1853);  N.  M.  Ludlow,  Dra- 
matic Life  as  I  Found  It  (St.  Louis,  1880);  and  Sol  Smith,  Theatrical 
Management  in  the  West  and  South  -for  Thirty  Years  (New  York, 
1868).  They  are  supplemented  by  a  number  of  autobiographies, 
among  which  the  more  important  are  William  Davidge,  Footlight 
Flashes  (New  York,  1867);  The  Autobiography  of  Joseph  Jeferson 
(New  York,  1889);  Anna  C.  Mowatt  (Mrs.  A.  C.  Ritchie),  Autobiog- 
raphy of  an  Actress  (Boston,  1853);  Tyrone  Power,  Impressions  of 
America  (2  vols.,  London,  1836);  Olive  Logan,  Apropos  of  Women 
and  the  Theatre  (New  York,  1869);  James  E.  Murdoch,  The  Stage 
(Philadelphia,  1880);  and  the  journal  of  Harry  Watkins  (One  Man 
in  His  Time),  edited  by  Maud  and  Otis  Skinner  (Philadelphia,  1938). 

Primary  sources  for  the  second  half  of  the  nineteenth  century  em- 
brace the  complete  records  of  the  stage  now  available  in  newspapers 
and  magazines,  an  increasing  number  of  autobiographies,  and  the 
reminiscences  of  several  well-known  critics.  An  even  more  selective 
list  of  books  covering  these  years  would  include  Lester  Wallack, 
Memories  of  Fifty  Years  (New  York,  1889);  Daniel  Frohman,  Me- 
moirs of  a  Manager  (Garden  City,  1911);  John  Rankin  Towse,  Siocty 
Years  of  the  Theatre  (New  York,  1916);  Henry  Austin  Clapp,  Remi- 
niscences of  a  Dramatic  Critic  (Boston,  1902);  William  Winter,  The 
Wallet  of  Time  (2  vols.,  New  York,  1916);  E.  H.  Sothern,  The 
Melancholy  Tale  of  Me  (New  York,  1910);  De  Wolfe  Hopper,  Once 
a  Clown  Always  a  Clown  (Boston,  1927);  and  George  M,  Cohan, 
Twenty  Years  on  Broadway  (New  York,  1925). 

Modern  writers  have  treated  the  history  of  the  theatre  from  every 
possible  angle.  Its  beginnings  in  colonial  America  are  traced  in 
Charles  P.  Daly,  First  Theatre  in  America,  Dunlap  Society  Pub- 
lications, New  Series,  No.  I  (New  York,  1896);  Eola  Willis,  The 
Charleston  Stage  in  the  Eighteenth  Century  (Columbia,  1924);  Paul 
Leicester  Ford,  Washington  and  the  Theatre,  Dunlap  Society  Pub- 
lications, New  Series,  No.  VIII  (New  York,  1899);  George  O.  Seil- 
hammer,  The  History  of  the  American  Theatre  (3  vols,,  Philadelphia, 
1888-91),  an  ambitious  project  which  carries  the  story  only  through 
the  eighteenth  century.  The  development  of  the  theatre  through  the 
years,  as  already  noted,  is  the  subject  of  such  general  histories  as 
those  by  Arthur  A.  Hornblow,  O.  S.  Coad  and  Edwin  Mims,  Jr.,  and 
John  Anderson.  Other  specialized  studies  include  A.  H.  Quinn,  His- 
tory of  the  American  Drama  (2  vols.,  New  York,  1927);  Montrose  J. 
Moses  and  John  Mason  Brown,  The  American  Theatre  as  Seen  by  Its 
Critics  17S2-1934  (New  York,  1934);  R.  C.  Dimmick,  Our  Theatre 


Today  and  Yesterday  (New  York,  1913);  Mary  C.  Crawford,  The 
Romance  of  the  American  Theatre  (Boston,  1925);  Lawrence  Hutton, 
Curiosities  of  the  American  Stage  (London,  1891);  Constance  Rourke, 
Troupers  of  the  Gold  Coast  (New  York,  1928);  Norman  Hapgood, 
The  Stage  in  America  1897-1900  (New  York,  1901);  W.  L.  Phelps, 
The  Twentieth  Century  Theatre  (New  York,  1918);  O.  M.  Sayles, 
Our  American  Theatre  (New  York,  1913) ;  Sheldon  Cheney,  The  New 
Movement  in  the  Theatre  (New  York,  1914) ;  Albert  McCleery  and 
Carl  Click,  Curtains  Going  Up  (New  York,  1939);  Esther  C.  Dunn, 
Shakespeare  in  America  (New  York,  1939). 

Possibly  more  important  are  a  number  of  local  histories  of  the 
theatre.  Foremost  among  such  books,  and  an  invaluable  source  for  the 
period  it  covers,  is  the  monumental  work  of  George  C.  D.  Odell, 
Annds  of  the  New  York  Stage,  of  which  the  ten  volumes  already 
published  (New  York,  1927—)  carry  the  story  through  1875.  Two 
interesting  volumes  on  the  Philadelphia  stage  are  valuable  for  that 
city:  Reese  D.  James,  Old  Drury  of  Philadelphia  (Philadelphia,  1932), 
and  Arthur  H.  Wilson,  A  History  of  the  Philadelphia  Theatre,  183S 
to  18SS  (Philadelphia,  1935).  There  are  also  Eugene  Tompkins  and 
Quincy  Kilby,  History  of  the  Boston  Theatre  (Boston,  1908);  H.  P. 
Phelps,  Players  of  a  Century  (Albany,  1880);  George  O.  Willard, 
History  of  the  Providence  Stage,  1762-1891  (Providence,  c.  1891); 
Douglas  L.  Hunt,  "The  Nashville  Theatre,"  Birmingham-Southern 
College  Bulletin,  XXVIII,  No.  3  (1935);  and,  for  the  St.  Louis  stage, 
William  G.  B.  Carson,  The  Theatre  on  the  Frontier  (Chicago,  1932). 

A  few  of  the  more  important  biographical  studies  may  also  be  men- 
tioned. They  include  Montrose  J.  Moses,  Famous  Actor  Families  in 
America  (New  York,  1906);  Lewis  C.  Strang,  Players  and  Plays  of 
the  Last  Quarter  Century  (2  vols.,  Boston,  1903);  Montrose  J.  Moses, 
The  Fabulous  Forrest  (Boston,  1929);  Asa  B.  Clarke,  The  Elder  and 
Younger  Booth  (Boston,  1882);  Leota  S.  Driver,  Fanny  Kemble 
(Chapel  Hill,  1933);  Francis  Joseph  Daly,  The  Life  of  Augustin  Daly 
(New  York,  1917);  William  Winter,  The  Life  and  Art  of  Joseph 
Jefferson  (New  York,  1914). 


The  opera  and  the  concert  platform  have  their  own  literature,  but 
as  they  have  not  received  extended  treatment  in  the  text,  the  following 
books  alone  are  noted  as  outlining  their  general  development:  O.  G. 
Sonneck,  Early  Opera  in  America  (Boston,  1915),  and  Early  Concert- 


Life  in  America  (Leipzig,  1907);  Henry  C.  Lahee,  Annals  of  Musio 
in  America  (Boston,  1922);  Louis  C.  Elson,  The  History  of  American 
Music  (New  York,  1925);  John  T.  Howard,  Our  American  Music 
(New  York,  1931);  Henry  E.  Krehbiel,  Chapters  of  Opera  (New 
York,  1909);  and  Irving  Kolodin,  The  Metropolitan  Opera  (New 
York,  1936). 

Material  on  minstrelsy  is  largely  scattered  through  the  contemporary 
magazines,  but  it  has  also  had  its  historians.  Carl  Wittke,  Tambo  and 
Bones  (Durham,  N.  C.,  1930),  and  Dailey  Pasfcman  and  Sigmund 
Spaeth,  "Gentlemen,  Be  Seated!"  (New  York,  1928),  are  the  two 
leading  books  on  this  topic,  but  the  subject  is  also  taken  up  in  Francis 
Pendleton  Gaines,  The  Southern  Plantation  (New  York,  1924),  while 
John  Tasker  Howard  has  written  an  interesting  biography  of  min- 
strelsy's greatest  composer,  Stephen  Foster,  America's  Troubadour 
(New  York,  1934), 

Source  material  for  the  variety  stage  and  circus  is  found  in  a  num- 
ber of  autobiographies.  Outstanding  among  them  is  the  autobiography 
of  P.  T.  Barnum,  first  issued  as  The  Life  of  P.  T.  Barnum,  Written  by 
Himself  (New  York,  1855).  Other  such  books  include  Gil  Robinson, 
Old  Wagon  Shows  Days  (Cincinnati,  1925);  W.  C.  Coup,  Sawdust 
and  Spangles  (Chicago,  1901);  J.  J.  Jennings,  Theatrical  and  Circus 
Life  (Chicago,  1893);  Ralph  Keeler,  Vagabond  Adventures  (Boston, 
1872);  and  M.  B.  Leavitt,  Fifty  Years  in  Theatrical  Management 
(New  York,  1912). 

These  forms  of  commercial  entertainment  have  not  received  from 
modern  writers  comparable  treatment  to  that  given  the  theatre— 
although  Professor  Odell  includes  all  entertainment  in  his  Annals  of 
the  New  York  Stage.  For  the  origins  of  the  American  circus,  however, 
a  valuable  compilation  of  early  notices  is  R.  W.  G.  Vail,  "Random 
Notes  on  the  History  of  the  Early  American  Circus,"  Proceedings  of 
the  American  Antiquarian  Society ,  April,  1933  (reprint,  Worcester, 
1934).  Leonidas  Westervelt  has  also  gathered  together  some  of  this 
material  in  The  Circus  in  Literature  (New  York,  1931).  Another  com- 
parable book,  although  it  carries  the  story  only  through  1835,  is  Isaac 
J.  Greenwood,  The  Circus  (New  York,  1898),  while  a  more  general 
account  is  Earl  Chapin  May,  The  Circus  pom  Rome  to  Ringling  (New 
York,  1932).  There  is  also  much  material  on  this  subject  in  M.  R. 
Werner,  Barnum  (New  York,  1927). 

The  development  of  the  variety  stage  is  discussed  in  Caroline  Coffin, 
Vaudeville  (New  York,  1914),  and  that  of  burlesque  in  Bernard  Sobel, 
Burleycue  (New  York,  1931). 



Contemporary  accounts  of  the  amusements  of  the  pioneers  are 
found  in  a  number  of  travel  books.  A  valuable  compilation  of  such 
journals,  carefully  indexed,  is  Reuben  Gold  Thwaites,  Early  Western 
Travels  1748-1846  (32  vols.,  Cleveland,  1907).  A  highly  selective  list 
of  other  primary  sources  would  include  John  James  Audubon,  De- 
lineations of  American  Scenery  and  Character  (1834),  (New  York, 
1926);  H.  M.  Brackenridge,  Recollections  of  Persons  and  Places  in  the 
Far  West  (Philadelphia,  1868);  Peter  Cartwright,  Autobiography 
(New  York,  1857);  The  Life  of  Davy  Crockett,  Written  by  Himself 
(Philadelphia,  1860);  Joseph  Doddridge,  Notes  on  the  Settlement 
and  Indian  Wars  (Albany,  1876);  Timothy  Flint,  Recollections  of 
the  Last  Ten  Years  (Boston,  1826);  James  B.  Finley,  Autobiography 
(Cincinnati,  1854);  Baynard  Rush  Hall,  The  New  Purchase  (New 
York,  1855);  James  Hall,  Sketches  of  History,  Life  and  Manners  in 
the  West  (2  vols,,  Philadelphia,  1835);  William  H.  Milburn,  The 
Rifle,  Axe  and  Saddle-Bags  (New  York,  1857).  For  the  West  of  a 
somewhat  later  period  (the  prairie  states)  there  are  many  records,  but 
among  them  all  one  stands  out  with  special  prominence— Hamlin 
Garland,  A  Son  of  the  Middle  Border  (New  York,  1917).  And  it  is 
best  supplemented  by  the  same  author's  Boy  Life  on  the  Prairie  (New 
York,  1899). 

Among  secondary  accounts  of  frontier  life,  Everett  Dick,  The  Sod- 
House  Frontier,  1854-1890  (New  York,  1937);  Bessie  Louise  Pierce, 
A  History  of  Chicago,  Vol.  I  (New  York,  1937);  Thomas  D.  Clark, 
The  Rampaging  Frontier  (Indianapolis,  1939);  Bernard  De  Voto, 
Mark  Twain's  America  (Boston,  1932),  and  E.  E.  Calkins,  They 
Broke  the  Prairie  (New  York,  1937),  take  up  recreation  and  amuse- 
ments in  considerable  detail. 

For  the  Far  West,  Samuel  L.  Clemens  (Mark  Twain),  Roughing 
It  (2  vols.,  New  York,  1899),  is  a  classic.  Some  account  of  amuse- 
ments is  found  also  in  such  books  as  A.  K.  McClure,  Three  Thousand 
Miles  through  the  Rockies  (Philadelphia,  1869);  Samuel  Bowles, 
Across  the  Continent  (Springfield,  1865);  J.  H.  Cook,  Fifty  Years  on 
the  Old  Frontier  (New  Haven,  1923);  T.  A.  McNeal,  When  Kansas 
Was  Young  (New  York,  1922);  R.  M.  Wright,  Dodge  City  (Dodge 
City,  1913);  William  Wright  (Dan  De  Quille),  The  Big  Bonanza 
(Hartford,  1876);  Wells  Drury,  An  Editor  on  the  Comstock  Lode 
(New  York,  1934).  Two  books  with  interesting  chapters  on  the 
amusements  of  the  cowboy  are  Emerson  Hough,  The  Story  of  the 


Cowboy  (New  York,  1897),  and  Philip  Ashton  Rollins,  The  Cowboy 
(New  York,  1922),  while  a  more  colorful  record  is  We  Pointed  Them 
North,  by  E.  C.  Abbott  ("Teddy  Blue")  and  Helen  Huntington 
Smith  (New  York,  1939).  The  authentic  flavor  of  this  country  is  also 
preserved  in  John  A.  and  Alan  Lomax,  Cowboy  Songs  (New  York, 


The  distinctive  character  of  recreation  in  the  ante-bellum  South 
demands  some  special  mention  of  the  primary  sources  in  this  field. 
Two  interesting  journals  of  northerners  describing  plantation  life  are 
Henry  Barnard,  'The  South  Atlantic  States,"  in  The  Maryland  His- 
torical Magazine,  XIII,  and  A.  DePuy  Van  Buren,  Jottings  of  a  Year's 
Sojourn  in  the  South  (Battle  Creek,  Mich.,  1859),  while  among  many 
reminiscences  of  pre-war  days  are  Susan  Dabney  Smedes,  Memorials 
of  a  Southern  Planter  (Baltimore,  1887);  Herbert  Ravenel  Sass,  A 
Carolina  Rice  Plantation  in  the  Fifties  (New  York,  1936);  Eliza 
Ripley,  Social  Life  in  Old  New  Orleans  (New  York,  1912);  F.  D. 
Srygley,  Seventy  Years  in  Dixie  (Nashville,  1893);  and  Thomas  Nel- 
son Page,  Social  Life  in  Old  Virginia  (New  York,  1897).  Quite  a 
different  phase  of  southern  life,  with  descriptions  of  amusements  in 
the  backwoods,  is  taken  up  in  two  memorable  literary  records: 
Joseph  G.  Baldwin,  The  Flush  Times  of  Alabama  and  Mississippi 
(New  York,  1854),  and  Augustus  B.  Longstreet,  Georgia  Scenes 
(Augusta,  1835).  Two  of  the  best  contemporary  social  studies  are 
D.  R.  Hundley,  Social  Relations  in  Our  Southern  States  (New  York, 
1860),  and  Frederick  Law  Olmsted,  The  Cotton  Kingdom  (2  vols., 
New  York,  1862). 

Secondary  sources  that  may  be  singled  out  for  their  material  bear- 
ing on  recreation  are  U.  B.  Phillips,  Life  and  Labor  in  the  Old  South 
(Boston,  1929);  Francis  P.  Gaines,  The  Southern  Plantation  (New 
York,  1924);  Guion  Griffis  Johnson,  Ante-Bellum  North  Carolina 
(Chapel  Hill,  1937) ;  and  Minnie  Clare  Boyd,  Alabama  in  the  Fifties 
(New  York,  1931). 


On  the  broad  subject  of  the  rise  of  sports  the  most  valuable  material 
is  found  in  contemporary  magazines,  such  manuals  and  guides  as  those 
of  Spalding's  Athletic  Library,  published  by  the  American  Sports 
Publishing  Company,  and  other  memorabilia  in  the  extensive  A.  G. 
Spalding  Collection  in  the  New  York  Public  Library.  But  a  number 


of  early  books  on  sports  would  also  qualify  as  primary  sources: 
Horatio  Smith,  Festivals,  Games  and  Amusement  (New  York,  1833); 
Charles  A.  Peverelly,  The  Book  of  American  Pastimes  (New  York, 
1866);  J.  H.  Walsh,  Encyclopedia  of  Rural  Sports  (Philadelphia, 
1874);  The  Tribune  Book  of  Open-Air  Sports  (New  York,  1887); 
William  Patten  (editor),  The  Book  of  Sport  (New  York,  1901);  and 
J.  Parmly  Paret,  The  Woman's  Book  of  Sports  (New  York,  1901). 
There  are  also  many  books  on  hunting  and  field  sports.  While  in 
general  not  of  much  value  to  the  historian,  two  exceptions  are  H.  W. 
Herbert  (Frank  Forester),  Field  Sports  of  the  United  States  and 
British  Provinces  (2  vols.,  New  York,  1848),  and  B.  H.  Revail, 
Shooting  and  Fishing  in  the  Rivers,  Provinces  and  Backwoods  of 
America  (London,  1865). 

Among  the  many  personal  records  of  individual  sportsmen,  there 
may  be  mentioned  Hiram  Woodruff,  The  Trotting  Horse  of  America 
(New  York,  1871);  John  J.  McGraw,  My  Thirty  Years  in  Baseball 
(New  York,  1923);  J.  J.  Corbett,  The  Roar  of  the  Crowd  (New  York, 
1925);  Ed  Geer,  Ed  Geer's  Experience  with  Trotters  and  Pacers 
(Buffalo,  1901);  William  R.  Wister,  Some  Reminiscences  of  Cricket 
in  Philadelphia  before  1861  (Philadelphia,  1904);  L.  H.  Porter, 
Wheels  and  Wheeling  (New  York,  1892);  Walter  G.  Kendall,  Four 
Score  Years  of  Sport  (Boston,  1933);  Charles  Evans,  Jr.,  Chick  Evans' 
Golf  Book  (Chicago,  1921);  J.  D.  Travers  and  J.  R.  Crowell,  The 
Fifth  Estate,  Thirty  Years  of  Golf  (New  York,  1926);  and  A.  A. 
Stagg  and  W.  W.  Stout,  Touchdown  (New  York,  1927). 

The  only  comprehensive  record  of  American  sports  among  the 
secondary  authorities,  as  already  noted,  is  John  A.  Krout,  Annals  of 
American  Sport;  but  Herbert  Manchester,  Four  Centuries  of  Sport  in 
America  1490-1890  (New  York,  1931),  has  a  broad  sweep,  and  there 
is  a  stimulating  essay,  "The  Rise  of  American  Sports/*  by  F.  L.  Pax- 
son  in  the  Mississippi  Valley  Historical  Review.,  IV.  Jennie  Holliman 
has  made  a  careful  study  for  a  limited  period  in  American  Sports 
1785-1835  (Durham,  N.  C.,  1931),  and  note  should  also  be  made 
of  Emmett  A.  Rice,  A  Brief  History  of  Physical  Education  (New 
York,  1929);  C.  E.  Rainwater,  The  Play  Movement  in  the  United 
States  (Chicago,  1921);  John  R.  Tunis,  Sports,  Heroics  and  Hysterics 
(New  York,  1928);  and  Paul  Gallico,  Farewell  to  Sport  (New  York, 
1938).  There  is  also  considerable  material  in  R.  B.  Weaver's  pre- 
viously cited  Amusements  and  Sports  in  American  Life. 

Among  individual  sports,  yachting  has  an  extensive  literature,  two 
of  the  best  accounts  being  F.  S.  Cozzens,  Yachts  and  Yachting  (New 


York,  1888),  and  W.  P.  Stephens,  American  Yachting  (New  York, 
1904).  Horse-racing  has  had  many  histories,  among  which  may  be 
mentioned  John  H.  Wallace,  The  Horse  of  America  (New  York,  1897); 
W.  S.  Vosburgh,  Racing  in  America  1866-1921  (New  York,  1922); 
F.  G.  Griswold,  Race  Horses  and  Racing  (New  York,  1926);  and, 
especially  useful,  Dwight  Akers,  Drivers  Up:  the  Story  of  American 
Harness  Racing  (New  York,  1938),  and  Charles  B.  Parmer,  For  Gold 
and  Glory:  The  Story  of  Thoroughbred  Racing  in  America  (New  York, 

Baseball  has  had  several  historians  also.  The  principal  authority  is 
A.  G,  Spalding,  America's  National  Game  (New  York,  1911),  al- 
though its  account  of  the  origin  of  baseball  is  now  superseded  by  the 
article  of  R.  W.  Henderson  in  the  April,  1939,  issue  of  the  Bulletin 
of  the  New  York  Public  Library.  Other  supplementary  records  include 
Francis  C.  Richter,  History  and  Records  of  Baseball  (Philadelphia, 
1914);  John  M.  Ward,  Baseball  (Philadelphia,  1889);  A.  H.  Spink, 
The  National  Game  (St.  Louis,  1910);  and  G.  L.  Moreland,  BaUdom 
(New  York,  1914).  Parke  H.  Davis  has  written  the  leading  history 
of  football  in  Football,  the  Intercollegiate  Game  (New  York,  1911). 
Other  less  valuable  accounts  are  Walter  Camp  and  Lorin  F.  Deland, 
Football  (New  York,  1896),  and  A.  M.  Weyand,  American  Football 
(New  York,  1926). 

A  few  other  interesting  books  in  their  respective  fields  are  Alexan- 
der Johnston,  Ten—And  Out!  (New  York,  1936),  a  history  of  prize- 
fighting; Robert  F.  Kelley,  American  Routing  (New  York,  1932); 
H.  F.  Leonard,  A  Handbook  of  Wrestling  (New  York,  1877);  Robert 
P.  Elmer,  Archery  (Philadelphia,  1926);  Frederick  W.  Jannsen,  A 
History  of  American  Amateur  Athletics  and  Aquatics  (New  York, 
1888);  James  Naismith  and  L.  Gulick,  Basketball  (New  York,  1894); 
Samuel  Crowther  and  Arthur  Ruhl,  Rowing  and  Track  Athletics  (New 
York,  1905);  J.  P.  Paret,  Lawn  Tennis  (New  York,  1912);  Fifty 
"Years  of  Lawn  Tennis  in  the  United  States  (New  York,  1931);  H.  B. 
Martin,  Fifty  Years  of  American  Golf  (New  York,  1936).  Interesting 
data  on  all  sports  may  be  found  in  the  various  editions  of  the  All- 
Sports  Record  Book  and  the  Encyclopedia  of  Sports9  both  edited  by 
Frank  G.  Menke. 


The  primary  material  for  the  growth  of  motion  pictures,  the  recrea- 
tional use  of  the  automobile,  and  radio  is  found  in  newspapers  and 


magazines,  both  the  more  general  publications  to  which  reference  has 
already  been  made  and  various  special  magazines.  The  Motion  Pic- 
ture News  and  Film  Daily  are  especially  useful  for  the  movies,  the 
Film  Daily  Yearbook  providing  a  valuable  annual  summary.  Among 
publications  devoted  to  the  automobile,  Facts  and  Figures  of  the 
Automobile  Industry,  issued  annually  by  the  National  Automobile 
Chamber  of  Commerce,  is  an  indispensable  factual  record  of  the 
industry's  expansion.  Radio  Broadcast  and  Radio  Today  provide  a  run- 
ning commentary  on  developments  in  broadcasting.  There  have  been 
many  special  studies  of  the  influence  and  social  significance  of  the 
movies  and  radio— reports,  among  many  others,  of  the  Motion  Picture 
Research  Council  and  of  both  the  National  Broadcasting  Company 
and  the  Columbia  Broadcasting  Company.  Also,  many  autobiographies 
of  screen  stars  have  appeared  in  recent  years.  No  attempt  at  a  bibli- 
ography has  been  made  in  listing  the  following  selected  sources. 

The  best  account  of  the  early  development  of  motion  pictures  in 
book  form  is  Terry  Ramsaye,  A  Million  and  One  Nights  (2  vols,,  New 
York,  1926).  Other  sources  include  Ben  J.  Lubschez,  The  Story  of  the 
Motion  Picture  (New  York,  1920);  Benjamin  B.  Hampton,  A  History 
of  the  Movies  (New  York,  1931);  H.  B.  Franklin,  Sound  Motion  Pic- 
tures (Garden  City,  1920);  F.  A.  Talbot,  Moving  Pictures  (Phila- 
delphia, 1912);  WiU  Irwin,  The  House  That  Shadows  Built  (New 
York,  1927);  W.  M.  Seabury,  The  Public  and  the  Motion  Picture 
Industry  (New  York,  1926);  Lewis  Jacobs,  The  Rise  of  the  American 
Film  (New  York,  1939),  with  an  extensive  bibliography;  Margaret  F. 
Thorp,  America  at  the  Movies  (New  Haven,  1939) ;  and,  among  other 
studies  of  the  Payne  Fund,  Edgar  Dale,  The  Content  of  Motion  Pic- 
tures (New  York,  1935). 

Books  on  the  automobile  are  largely  concerned  with  its  industrial 
importance  rather  than  the  recreational  aspects  of  motoring,  but  among 
the  more  useful  histories  Hiram  Percy  Maxim,  Horseless  Carnage 
Days  (New  York,  1937);  R.  C.  Epstein,  The  Automobile  Industry 
(Chicago,  1928);  H.  L.  Barber,  The  Story  of  the  Automobile  (Chi- 
cago, 1927);  Arthur  Pound,  The  Turning  Wheel  (New  York,  1934), 
should  be  mentioned.  There  are  many  books  about  Henry  Ford.  Two 
to  be  noted  are  My  Life  and  Work,  written  by  Henry  Ford  in  collabo- 
ration with  Samuel  Crowther  (Garden  City,  1922),  and  Charles  Merz, 
And  Then  Came  Ford  (New  York,  1929). 

Paul  Schubert's  The  Electric  Word;  the  Rise  of  Radio  (New  York, 
1929)  is  a  general  history  of  this  form  of  communications  and  enter- 
tainment. Other  accounts  are  A.  N.  Goldsmith  and  A.  C.  Lescarboura, 


This  Thing  Called  Broadcasting  (New  York,  1930) ;  Gleason  L.  Archer, 
History  of  Radio  (New  York,  1938);  Alvin  F.  Harlow,  Old  Wires  and 
New  Waves  (New  York,  1936);  Samuel  L.  Rothafel  and  R.  F.  Yates, 
Broadcasting-Its  New  Day  (New  York,  1925);  and  Hadley  Cantril 
and  Gordon  W.  Allport,  The  Psychology  of  Radio  (New  York,  1935). 
There  is  also  interesting  material  in  Alfred  P.  Morgan,  The  Pageant  of 
Electricity  (New  York,  1939). 


While  the  primary  sources  and  special  studies  already  noted  pro- 
vide the  basic  data  for  any  discussion  of  recreation  in  the  twentieth 
century,  two  other  groups  of  books  of  a  more  general  nature  remain 
to  be  noted.  The  first  comprises  contemporary  records  of  American 
civilization.  Foremost  among  them  in  its  treatment  of  the  people  at 
play  is  Mark  Sullivan,  Our  Times:  The  United  States  1900-1925  (6 
vols.,  New  York,  1925-35).  There  is  a  stimulating  chapter  on  enter- 
tainment in  Charles  A.  and  Mary  Beard,  America  in  Midpassage 
(New  York,  1939),  and  unusually  valuable  material  in  both  Middle- 
town  (New  York,  1929)  and  Middletown  in  Transition  (New  York, 
1937),  by  Robert  S.  and  Helen  Merrell  Lynd.  Stuart  Chase  has  a 
chapter  on  "Play"  in  Whither  Mankind  (Charles  Beard,  editor,  New 
York,  1928),  and  John  R.  Tunis  one  on  "The  Business  of  American 
Sport"  in  America  as  Americans  See  It  (New  York,  1932).  Among 
many  others  two  especially  helpful  books  in  this  field  are  Charles 
Merz,  The  Great  American  Bandwagon  (New  York,  1925),  ancl 
Frederick  Lewis  Allen,  Only  Jesterday  (New  York,  1931). 

The  second  group  of  books  includes  a  large  number  of  sociological 
studies  of  leisure  and  recreation.  This  literature  is  listed  in  the  bib- 
liographies of  the  Russell  Sage  Foundation,  and  only  a  few  titles  can 
be  noted  here.  The  most  important  for  the  purposes  of  this  study  is 
Jesse  F.  Steiner,  Americans  at  Play  (New  York,  1938),  a  monograph 
from  which  the  material  was  derived  for  the  chapter  on  recreation  in 
Recent  Social  Trends,  Report  of  the  President's  Research  Committee 
on  Social  Trends  (2  vols.,  New  York,  1933).  Special  note  should 
also  be  made  of  Julius  Weinberger,  Economic  Aspects  of  Recreation 
(Harvard  Business  Review  reprint,  Cambridge,  1937),  the  best  of 
several  studies  of  this  nature;  the  annual  Recreation  Yearbook  of  the 
magazine  Recreation;  and  the  articles  on  recreation,  play,  amuse- 
ments, leisure,  etc.,  in  the  Encyclopedia  of  the  Social  Sciences.  A 
highly  selective  list  of  books  on  the  modern  "problem  of  leisure" 


would  include  C.  DeLisle  Burns,  Leisure  in  the  Modern  World  (New 
York,  1932);  C.  E.  M.  Joad,  Diogenes;  or  The  Future  of  Leisure 
(London,  1928);  Arthur  N.  Pack,  The  Challenge  of  Leisure  (New 
York,  1934);  G.  B.  Cutten,  The  Threat  of  Leisure  (New  Haven, 
1926);  George  A.  Lundberg,  Leisure— A  Suburban  Study  (New  York, 
1934);  Herbert  L.  May  and  Dorothy  Petgen,  Leisure  and  Its  Uses 
(New  York,  1928);  M.  H.  and  E.  S.  Neumeyer,  Leisure  and  Recrea- 
tion (New  York,  1936),  a  textbook;  and  Jay  B.  Nash,  Spectatoritis 
'(New  York,  1932) .  There  are  also  many  analytical  studies  of  the  use 
o£  leisure  and  recreational  habits  in  specific  com